I was up this morning at 3:00 AM to meet my friend Bill for a trip to Cave Spring in Shannon County. We made the Salem McDonalds by 6:00 and picked up some coffee for the road because we were “running out of dark,” a phrase I use to denote that direct light is rarely my friend when I’m photographing Nature. By 6:20, we were at the Devil’s Well parking lot, the trailhead for Cave Spring, and a few minutes later we began the 2.3 mile hike down to the spring, which emerges from a cave along the Current River.
Our hike was uneventful and we didn’t see much along the way because most of it was in the dark. Bill led the way because I was loaded with camera gear, and I thanked him early and often for taking one for the team regarding spider webs, a well-known feature of the Cave Spring Trail. It was a foggy morning and by the time we made it to the spring the sun was just breaking the horizon, producing some lovely, ethereal scenes. I could see right away that I needed to be out in the river to get a nice angle for a shot so I took my shoes and socks off and rolled up my pants. A few minutes later, I was wading crotch-deep in the chilly water.
Cave Spring originates at Devil’s Well, a fascinating sink hole where we began our hike. At the bottom of the sink hole is a huge, underground lake which constantly recharges and releases water to the spring about a mile down the hill. As you approach Cave Spring, you will notice the distinct lack of a “roar” because there is not a riffle below its discharge of 55 million gallons per day. The spring really sneaks up on you due to its quiet personality, but its beauty more than compensates for its mild manners. Cave Spring, which is owned by the L-A-D Foundation, and open to the public, can be accessed by the aforementioned 4.6 mile round trip trail or by canoe from the Current River. You can learn more about the L-A-D Foundation, whose mission is to protect natural areas, here.
The beauty of Cave Spring once attracted a visit by Missouri’s most famous artist, Thomas Hart Benton, who painted the cave entrance and spring in 1963. During my visit, I did everything I could, short of drowning my equipment, to photograph the spring from Benton’s perspective. I was never able to frame such a wide view as the artist did with his canvas and brush, but I was happy with the featured image of this jewel along the Current River. I’ve provided a National Park Service link to an image of Benton’s famous painting of Cave Spring here. I’ll admit that I was giddy to be visiting the same location where the great artist produced such a wonderful piece.
I made this image shortly after our arrival when I caught Bill enjoying the foggy sunrise on the Current River. It was a glorious morning, not too humid with just the right amount of fog around the spring and river. Just as we arrived, we observed a colony of 15 to 20 bats reenter the cave after a long night of feeding. We were off to a great start!
By 9:30 AM the light was getting rough so I told Bill I was ready when he was. We gathered our equipment and headed back to Devil’s Well. It was nice to see the fascinating sink hole in the light of day and we couldn’t wait to head down the steps the National Park Service constructed to access the 100′ deep underground lake which provides water to Cave Spring. We were both impressed as we reached the bottom of the passageway and an automatic light came on to illuminate the subterranean lake below. It was a “Wow!” moment for sure and a great way to end the morning.
Bill and I were pretty well sweated out after the five-mile hike and morning adventure so we changed in to some cooler, dryer clothes and headed back to Salem for some all-you-can-eat pizza. I must have drunk five glasses of tea before we finished lunch. We still had a few hours left to drive and I was getting tired, but it was a good tired.
Thanks for looking,
Gallery and Print Information: Here