Welch Spring

August 28, 2015

The weather continues to scream out, “Go camping, Danny Brown!” so I took its advice and headed for the National Park Service’s Pulltite Campground on Wednesday. My mission was to photograph nearby Welch Spring in late-afternoon light.

I arrived at Pulltite around 5:00 p.m., checked in, and set up my tent. I was pleased to see only a few other campers so I knew it would be a quiet evening, except for the sounds of screech owls and coyotes, which I enjoy. At around 6:30 I jumped in the 4Runner and headed back north on Highway 19 toward Welch Spring. Along the way, I experienced some of the best scenery Missouri provides, especially from the ridgetop road along Highway K where it splits off from Highway KK at Akers Ferry. The shoulder of the highway drops straight down to the Current River and the drive is reminiscent of the scenic byways of northern Arkansas.

When I pulled in to the tiny parking lot of the Welch Spring trailhead, I was happy to see only one vehicle and it appeared to be that of a floater so I knew I’d have the spring to myself. I began the short hike along the current river, and as always I walked faster and faster as I heard the roar of the spring. Upon arrival at the spring, I saw some nice photographic opportunities but I realized I’d be there for the long haul because the light was bright and harsh! I took a few preliminary photos and they were lousy, as suspected, so I planted my butt on a rock, enjoyed the show, and waited for twilight.

Welch Spring is similar in flow, about 80 million gallons per day, to Blue Spring, which I shared in the last post. After emerging from the base of the bluff shown in the featured image, it doubles the size of the Current River. The confluence of the spring and river are visible at the site.

According to my favorite reference, “Missouri’s Natural Wonders Guidebook” by Don Kurz, the spring was named after Thomas Welch who built and operated a grist mill there for 50 years. The even cooler history of the spring, no pun intended, began after that when Christian Diehl, an Illinois doctor, bought the spring in 1913 and built a rest camp and sanitarium (hospital) for asthma sufferers who might benefit from the medicinal qualities of the cool air of the adjacent Welch Cave. The remains of the hospital can be seen in the featured image.



This image provides a closer look at the spring outlet and the hospital remains. Sometimes I try to shoot around man-made elements but I loved the way the stone hospital wall integrated so beautifully with the spring bluff. If you click on the image and look closely, you can see a “Closed” sign above the opening at the base of the spring bluff. I suppose this helps the National Park Service to keep swimmers and divers out of there.

Every time I approach a Missouri Spring, I can’t help but to wonder what the early settlers thought when they stumbled upon such sites. Granted, our springs aren’t as magnificent as the Badlands or the Grand Canyon, but they are mighty impressive with their blue water cascading out from rocky cliff faces.

About an hour and a half after my arrival, the sun dropped behind the trees and it was time to shoot. I took a look through my viewfinder and saw a completely different view of the spring in the ambient glow of early-evening. As I often do, I began talking to myself, “Oh yeah,” I said, “that’s what I was waiting for.” Apparently, I wasn’t talking to myself because I looked up and saw a young couple right behind me. They said they came to the spring often in the evening light, just to sit and take in its splendor. I did my best to stay out of their way and continued to document that splendor as well as I could



On my way back to Pulltite Campground, I couldn’t resist pulling off on a narrow shoulder to watch the sun retire over the Current River valley on that high ridge road I mentioned earlier. The farmers had just baled the meadows among the forested bottoms, making for a nice scene. I could smell the aroma of camp smoke from the river bank far below. What a way to end the evening!

Back at Pulltite, I settled in to my sleeping bag, did some reading from the aforementioned guidebook, and waited for the sounds of the Ozarks. The sounds came in the form of banshee calls of barred owls and chilling retorts from screech owls. It wasn’t long before the coyotes joined in, as expected. At 1:00 a.m. I was awakened by the chilling scream of an unknown critter that had apparently crossed paths with a larger camp critter, perhaps an ornery raccoon. Although it freaked me out a bit, I smiled with pleasure from the heart-stopping experience.

Thanks for looking,


Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery and Prints:  Here

7 comments on “Welch Spring”

  1. Yes, those snarly old male raccoons kill the baby raccs in their territory… Thanks Danny…We love your poetry..all forms of it Leslie Limberg Master Naturalist

  2. One day I will go camping in Missouri too…but until I do, you are the take-me-there person! Thank you.

  3. Love this post, Danny. I would have loved to see this spring at dusk. Your description takes me back to last May when I was there myself. Thank you! I often found myself imagining the Native Americans in these beautiful places, too. I am sure they were filled with the same joy that we experience while visiting. Missouri is so beautiful. Thanks for bringing it to us, so often, through your writings and photographs.

    • You are welcome. I’ve had a lot of fun visiting all the springs. I was at another one this morning.

  4. Thanks for sharing those special moments! 

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Tab®4

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