Greer Spring (New Year’s Day 2018)

January 1, 2018

Greer Spring branch in Oregon County on a cold winter morning.

Greer Spring in Oregon County is my favorite place in Missouri. I’ve photographed it many times but I’ve always wanted to photograph it on a cold winter morning. I don’t mean any ole cold morning; I’m talking about a wicked cold morning when your Northface down jacket keeps trying to drag you south. You know, the kind of morning when the snot from your farmer style nose-blow comes out in one chunk and shatters on a rock along the trail!

This morning, the first day of 2018, was just what I was looking for. When I departed Union at 3:45 AM, it was -5 F but I was heading south to the Arkansas border where I found the temperature upon arrival at Greer Spring, three hours later, to be a balmy 1 F. Greer Spring, Missouri’s second largest spring, is gorgeous but it is also treacherous to serious photographers who tend to push the peanut with respect to slippery rocks. On this trip, I brought a complete change of clothes to leave in the 4Runner in case I fell in the drink. I figured I could make it back up the hill (1 mile hike), start the car, and change clothes before hypothermia set in. This was all theory, of course, and fortunately I didn’t have to test my optimistic plan.

As I hiked down the trail, still dark but lit by a bright New Year’s moon, I came to a familiar spot where I could first hear the spring. I remembered the first time I ever hiked the trail in the dark and first heard the roar of the outflow. I wouldn’t say it was scary, but I was a little intimidated by the unknown as I stood there in the darkness, as if somebody had sent me off on a float trip without telling me there was a waterfall downstream. When I finally arrived and witnessed Greer Spring for the first time, I felt like I was in some kind of secret forest where Yoda might emerge from a cave at any moment. Yes, I was impressed!

Back to this morning, I made it to the spring in record time as I was eager to see what it would look like with the temperature hovering around zero. As I offloaded my camera backpack, shoulder bag, and tripod, I could see steam rising from the warm spring water. Yes! After I cleared the ice from my eye lashes so I could get a better look at the situation, I saw that every rock and log was covered with frosty ice. Double yes! It was going to be a good morning.

As always, I started from the top where the spring emerges from a cave. I found the flow to be strong, even though we haven’t had significant rain in Missouri in months. I carefully situated myself for a shot of the cave outlet, with a frosty log in the foreground, and started shooting. You can see in the image below that steam rises from the cave opening and coats the vegetation above with ice. The entire scene was quite compelling.

The upper cave outlet of Greer Spring.

Next, I moved to the area just below the upper spring outlet, which always features interesting logs, waterfalls, and boulders. The layout is different every time I visit Greer so there is always a new challenge. Once I found a nice composition and started shooting, I made several images of the same scene, each with a different pattern of steam rising from the torrent. The image below was my favorite of the series. The frosty vegetation on the foreground rocks enhances the scene, and the glimpse of the horizon at the top left provides the viewer with a better sense of place.

The ubiquitous vegetation, found on every boulder at Greer Spring, was frosted over with ice on this cold winter morning.

As I approached the lower end of the spring run I saw the opportunity for a beautiful long shot back upstream. The resulting image, which I used as the feature image for this edition, was my favorite of the morning. The icy rocks just seemed to pop from the dark water and the double arch of overhanging trees was icing on the cake.

The final image below was one of Joyce’s favorites from the series. It is a tight shot that exemplifies the torrent of Greer Spring, even after a dry year. In an effort to capture the violent water I used a faster shutter speed than in some of my other images. Upon completion of this shot, my tripod was done because I had submerged one of its legs, making it a dysfunctional shaft of ice. When I tried to warm the leg joints by blowing on them, I was not only unsuccessful, but I ended up doing a great imitation of the kid at the flagpole in the movie “Christmas Story.” Yep, one has to be careful at those temperatures.

A nice capture of the torrent that is Greer Spring.

During my two hours at the spring this morning I was actually sweating most of the time, even though the temp was around zero. Activity, such as constantly getting up and down to frame images or setting duck decoys on an icy river, is always the solution to overcoming extreme cold. By the time I made it back up the hill to the 4Runner, I was stripping off layers! Maybe part of it was because I was glowing inside from spending such a lovely morning at Greer Spring on the first day of the year. As usual, I had the place all to myself which made it even better.

Greer Spring will always hold a place in my heart. As a matter of fact, I’m quite sure that even my ashes would be happy there.

Thanks for looking,


I greatly enjoy all of your emails at:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

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America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way.



9 comments on “Greer Spring (New Year’s Day 2018)”

  1. You are crazy, but you sure can get some beautiful shots. I enlarged them, unbelievable!
    Bonnie Riegel

    • Thanks Bonnie. By the way, my images are extremely downsized for web viewing so they don’t make very good enlargements. The originals on the other hand……….

  2. […] via Greer Spring (New Year’s Day 2018) — Nature Frames […]

  3. I am amazed that at that temperature you didn’t just curl up in the comforter instead of packing a change of clothes along with your camera and lenses! I don’t get this allusion: “When I tried to warm the leg joints by blowing on them, I was not only unsuccessful, but I ended up doing a great imitation of the kid at the flagpole in the movie “Christmas Story.”….what happened? Thank you for the colllld images!

    • Ha… are the first person I’ve ever met who hasn’t seen “A Christmas Story.” The main character, a little boy, gets his tongue stuck to a frozen flag pole.

  4. Oh, these photos are truly truly ‘wickedly’ wondrous. This has been a favorite spot of mine for many many years. We are fortunate to have such beauty here, such luscious springs, particularly Greer, where the Swainson’s Warblers like to return to breed for the summer after spending their winter in Central America and the Caribbean. Those warbler rascals abandon us for the winter, but Greer keeps flowing and waiting for them. I love the images of Greer, waiting, pausing, and the gorgeousness of that ‘winter pause’ caught by your lens.

    • Oh yes, you will find me there every summer, trying to better my last hooded warbler image from my campground base at Greer Crossing. My friend Bill prefers to focus on the Swainson’s warblers but he is a birdwatcher, not a photographer. Once we watched several fledglings making their first appearance from the underbrush about 2/3 of the way down to the spring. Memories!

      Nice to hear from you,


  5. Danny, I really enjoyed the Greer Spring photos. I especially liked the strong contrast between the dark stream valley and the white of the riffles and frost-covered vegetation. Thanks for sharing…Phil.

    • Thanks Phil. I loved that contrast as well. It was a fun morning to see the spring in a different light. Take care.

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