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Missouri springs

  1. 1. Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise By Loring BullardMissouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise
  2. 2. © Watershed Press Design by: Kelly GuentherMissouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 2
  3. 3. Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise By: Loring BullardIntroduction It is a bragging right that may be as old as This property of springs—their suddenland ownership itself. “I have a spring on my and hitherto unexplainable appearance—place that never runs dry.” The intimation is adds to their mysterious aura. Amongthat of all the springs around, there is some- our ancestors, speculation about springthing unique—something special—about my origins formed a rather sizeable body ofspring. Landowners have perhaps always folklore. While scientists can now explainviewed springs differently than nearby creeks. most of these formerly mystifyingUnlike a creek that arises surreptitiously on the properties, the allure of springs remains.property of others before passing through their People will probably always beland, a spring begins on their property. They intrigued—even mesmerized—by springs.can say that they own it. From an unseen, un- The human attraction to springs isobvious source, it literally springs, full blown, extremely durable. Springs guided thefrom the depths of the earth. A spring can truly habitation patterns and movements ofbe the source of a creek. Native Americans, just as they did the Marker at Liberty, Missouri (Photo by Author)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 3
  4. 4. IntroductionDillard Mill on HuzzahCreek(Photo by Author)later arriving settlers. Indian villages and hunting public water supplies. After all, thesecamps were usually located near perennial fortuitous emanations from the earthsprings. One can easily imagine native children were considered the purest and mostsquealing in delight with a summertime plunge, healthful of waters available.just as our own kids would today. Later, European Our attraction to springs cannot benewcomers followed the Indian’s lead, building accounted for solely by their reliabletheir cabins near springs, their water supplies and production of cool water. There isrefrigerators. more to it than that. Maybe springs With increasing settlement, business interests resonate with us as benevolent or eveneagerly sought perennially flowing springs, virtuous manifestations of nature—particularly to power mills. Unlike streams, representing new beginnings,springs provided fairly constant flows that in the fountains of hope, promises kept.wintertime were free of machinery-obstructing ice. They are given to us freely as gifts ofFor decades, springs faithfully turned water what we call good land, demandingwheels or spun metal turbines to grind grain or nothing in return. We find comfort insaw wood. They also supplied feed water for the fact that they will be therecommercial enterprises like tomato canneries, tomorrow, and the day after that. Dayhide tanneries, and distilleries. Thus, springs in and day out, for generations, theybecame the nuclei of a variety of thriving have satisfied our basic needs, while atindustries, driving the nascent machinery of our the same time refreshing and, atprosperity. times, inspiring us. Even as our direct It was only natural for people to congregate dependence upon them has waned,near these hydro-industrial centers. Many they continue to evoke in us nostalgiasettlements grew around mills and springs, as of simpler, more leisurely times—evidenced by the fact that over sixty-five towns in swimming in spring-fed creeks andMissouri contain the word spring in their names. ponds, in numbingly cold water thatSome towns depended on springs for their first needled the skin; or picknicking in theMissouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 4
  5. 5. Springs at WorkA Spring-fed Stream Kimberland Mill at Silver Lake Spring, Stone(Photo by Author) Countyshade of a lush spring glen, escaping the turning a wheel or turbine, for example.summer heat, feasting on watermelon and Historically, the value of a given springhomemade ice cream. was largely tied to its capacity to do work. This booklet is in no way meant to diminish Entrepreneurial zeal led people to assumeour sense of wonder or curiosity about springs. that the work potential of a spring was itsInstead, our intended purpose is to answer single most important attribute. Scenicsome questions commonly asked about them: and ecological values tended to be ignoredWhy is this spring here? Where does the water or pushed aside.come from? Why is it so cool? Why are some This fact forever changed the Missourisprings so blue? You will also learn how landscape, because springs becameill-conceived or uncaring manipulations on the magnets for development. Flows wereland can sometimes have disastrous captured and re-directed, outletsconsequences for springs—the very objects of modified, openings blasted or excavated.our affection. Hopefully, a deeper understand- Wood or rock or concrete dams anding of the workings of springs will helps us to flumes and diversions intercepted springmore fully honor, preserve and protect these branches or crisscrossed their valleys.priceless natural assets. That would be our Sturdy mills were built on nearby rockygreatest gift to those who follow us to their prominences. People began to seeeverlasting waters. undeveloped springs as underutilized resources: “All that water, just going toSprings at Work waste!” was a battle cry for the industrious to get into gear and build The simple fact that springs flow has for something of practical use to society.centuries stirred the minds of men—set brain There is nothing inherently wrong withturbines to spinning. When the physical aspect this, of course. People simply saw springsof elevation is added, springs not only can as useful natural amenities—like goodflow, they can tumble, cascade or even thunder timber or productive soil—agentsdownward, down to the level of rivers and provided for mankind to put to work forstreams. Flow rates and elevation or “heads” of his own benefit. Beneficial uses changedfall are key factors in putting springs to work— and evolved over time. Springs that onceMissouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 5
  6. 6. Springs at Work Kimberland Mill at Silver Lake Spring, Stone County (Courtesy History Museum for Spring- field and Greene County)served grist mills or sawmills were refitted for cable rolling over iron pulleys. After tenmore modern applications like the generation of minutes of dodging boulders andelectricity or raising of fish. Almost every large skidding down steep inclines, he arrivedspring in Missouri, at some point in time, was at at the bottom of the valley and the endleast considered for some type of development of the trail. He stopped and stood,project. It was not until large numbers of them staring, at the amazing boil ofhad been harnessed, throttled, diverted or greenish-blue water at his feet.otherwise exploited that we began to see them in a Churning vigorously form the streamdifferent light. The story of our evolving bed, the spring looked even morerelationship with springs, and our changing spectacular than he had remembered it.attitudes about them, can be exemplified by the A few hundred feet downstream a dam,tale of one spring, Missouri’s second largest. The now mossy and green, had been thrownyear is 1905; the location, south-central Missouri. across the channel, forming a shallow pond. A slot in the dam allowed water to * * * sluice through a turbine. Shepard could Edward Shepard’s mind remained clear, his see the horizontal iron shaft spinningbody relatively strong, in spite of his late middle and its grooved wheel, loudly rotating,age. He sported thick woolen breeches, tucked which held the moving cable. Thisinto his lace-up boots, as protection against thorns transmitted the power of flowing waterand brambles and even snakebite, although that up to the mill, a few hundred verticalwas unlikely at this time of year. He wore feet higher and almost a quarter of around,wire-rimmed spectacles. A neatly trimmed mile distant.gray moustache protruded below the shade of his Shepard knew that Samuel Greerwide-brimmed hat. He was wiry and trim and in bought this property near the Elevenspite of his fifty-two years of life, could still Point River in the late 1840s and hadnegotiate the rocky trails and terrain of the constructed the first mill here, near theMissouri Ozarks. spring, before the Civil War. But that He skirted the loudly banging grist mill and mill had burned about twenty-five yearsbegan hiking down the steep switch-back trail ago—an unfortunate event, but onebehind it. The sky arched an intense blue, which provided the Greer family ancloudless and cool, over oaks and hickories just opportunity to solve a serious accessnow flush with tiny mint green leaves. Shepard problem. The rutted road from the ridgekept his head down, his eyes on the trail ahead. top down to the mill was treacherouslyAbove him he heard constant chirping from a steel steep, making it difficult for loadedMissouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 6
  7. 7. Springs at Workwagons to negotiate. So when he began working pockmarks he had seen in the bedrockon a new mill in 1883, Greer’s son decided to above. He pulled a small field book frombuild it on the ridge above the spring and use the his pocket and recorded hispower of flowing water, far below, to drive it. observations and drew lines on a hand After admiring the boil for a few more drawn topographic map.minutes, Shepard turned upstream and hiked a Later, Shepard would use these notesfew hundred yards to the upper outlet of the for a report he would send to potentialspring, gushing from a cave in a moss and investors in St. Louis. In thelichen-covered bluff. Although the volume of accompanying letter, he would tell themflow was not as impressive here, the setting was that he believed he had found aequally spectacular. Shepard lingered only a promising site for a new dam—one thatmoment, however, because his real interest lay would be much larger and more soliddownstream, below the dam, where the spring than Greer’s feeble attempt. Unlike thatbranch threaded a narrow gorge over frothing flimsy little plug, this robust concreterapids, dropping sixty feet in the mile before it dam would hold back a high percentageemptied into the Eleven Point River. One of the of the spring’s daily flow and back aGreer boys had died here several years earlier considerable lake into the upper canyon.when he lost his footing and fell into the Instead of sending power through awhitewater maelstrom (many years later, a steel cable, Shepard envisioned coppercanoeist would also drown here). wires transporting a tantalizing new Shepard walked downstream, scouting the form of controlled energy—electricity.entire creek, forcing him at times to hike up and Electrification had arrived in Missouriover precipitous bluffs. At one point below the and Shepard, a consultant fordam, he found what he was looking for— hydropower interests, had arrived at theperpendicular rock faces rising from both sides spring as a geologic evaluator on theof the river nearly opposite each other. The hydroelectric frontier.bluffs were massive and unbroken, with few of By 1900, Missourians had becomethe bedding plane separations or solutional enthralled at the prospects of an Dam and Turbine at Greer Spring (Courtesy Missouri Department of Natural Resources)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 7
  8. 8. Springs at Workelectrical future. The state already had a strong per day of “pure Ozark spring water.”agricultural base, with the demand for apples, The plan called for two pipelinesstrawberries, mules, swine and beef cattle on the running from the source, Greerincrease. Electricity promised to add to the Spring, to the top of the ridge whereprosperity with labor saving appliances and new the bottling plant would be located.jobs in milling, mining and manufacturing. A Not surprisingly, the plan stirredreport from the Missouri School of Engineers in considerable controversy. Some1901 noted that the state contained an abundance people thought it was a great idea,of potential hydropower sites. By 1905, when boosting the local economy and theShepard inspected Big Ozark Spring (now called creation of jobs. Others considered theGreer Spring), engineers, consultants, speculators, very notion a travesty, particularlyand businessmen were crawling all over Missouri’s given the spring’s breathtaking beautybackwoods, searching for places to harness the and proximity to and ecologicalpower of flowing water. influence on the nearby Eleven Point, Shepard’s dam was never built at Greer Spring, a federally protected Wild and Scenicpossibly preempted by the large one begun on the River. In the end, Greer Spring wasWhite River in Taney County in 1911. In the 1920’s spared again. Leo Drey, a St. Louisthe property around Greer Spring was acquired by businessman and avid conservationist,the Dennig family, who operated it as a sort of stepped in and bought the Dennigguest ranch for many years. But the copious flow property for $4.5 million. Heof the spring continued to entice outsiders. In subsequently resold it to the federal1985 the family patriarch, Louis Dennig, passed government at a reduced rateaway. His heirs seriously considered an agreement ($500,000 less). Anheuser-Buschwith the Anheuser-Busch Corporation, which kicked in $500,000, the feds coughedwanted to bottle and sell about two million gallons up $3.5 million, and the 6,900 acres Greer Spring Main Boil (Courtesy)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 8
  9. 9. Springs at Work Orleans Mill, Polk County (Courtesy Polk County Historical Society)around Greer Spring became a part of the seemed determined to manipulate andMark Twain National Forest, designated as control nature’s powers, a few of Missouri’sa natural area and special preserve. citizens argued that our most magnificent In retrospect, we shouldn’t unduly natural features deserved some level ofcriticize Shepard or Anheuser-Busch for benevolent oversight and protection.eyeing Greer Spring with speculative Luella Owen, one of these earlyhunger. That prodigious quantity of clean, protagonists, was a curly-haired,cold groundwater issuing directly from the bright-eyed amateur geologist fromrock almost begs to be “used,” somehow. St. Joseph. In the 18890’s, she explored andBut there have also long been advocates for wrote about the caves of the Black Hills andpreserving natural wonders like Greer the Ozarks, including Marvel Cave nearSpring in an undeveloped condition. Even Branson and Grand Gulf near Koshkonong.in the nineteenth century, when mankind She endured a long, bumpy wagon ride from Steury Spring and Natural Bridge, Greene County (Courtesy History Museum for Springfield and Greene County)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 9
  10. 10. Spring AnatomyWest Plains to Greer Spring, where she was use to its inhabitants—but they werecaptivated by the spring’s beauty and awesome also mysterious. The workings of thegrandeur. While there, she noticed that rocks were underworld held a profoundbeing collected for the intended construction of a fascination for our forefathers, just aslarger dam. While recognizing the commercial it does for many of us today. Manyimportance of the mighty spring, she also people find it difficult to believe thatlamented the loss of “artistic” value that would springs continue flowing, day afterinevitably result from further damming it. day, between infrequent rainfall Owen could be characterized as an early events, without some massiveeco-tourist. Like many later Missourians, she additional input of water, such as aappreciated the scenic as well as the pragmatic distant river, somehow diverted intopotential of springs. Of course, the dynamic the system. The frigidity of springs hastension between urges to exploit versus efforts to led many people to believe that theirpreserve continues today. But the legacy of water must originate in lands far tosprings as industrial centers now resides more the north—from the Great Lakes,comfortably with the native scenery, as old mills perhaps, or massive glaciers. Some ofand dams and ponds have themselves become these notions held sway until thehistoric and nostalgic icons. For the most part, sciences of geology and hydrologysprings no longer do works for us. But they began to provide reasonablecontinue to provide many other services that are alternative explanations. But even inequally valuable. the face of scientific evidence, some people remain unconvinced.Spring Anatomy The Ozarks of southern Missouri boasts one of the highest Missouri’s springs were obviously of great practical concentrations of springs in the world, Round Spring (Photo by Author)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 10
  11. 11. Spring Anatomy Markham Spring on Black River (Photo by Author)as well as some of the planet’s most powerfully subterranean water only dissolves andflowing springs. Big Spring, Missouri’s largest, enlarges existing openings—it doeswith an average flow rate of 275 million not create new openings. Thegallons per day (and measured high flows of over downward flowing water follows a800), ranks among the top handful of largest pre-existing network of cracks,single outlet springs in the world. By way of whether they are vertical fracturescomparison, the entire city of St. Louis uses on through the rocks created by tilting oraverage about 125 million gallons of water per day, warping, or bedding planes,less than half of the daily flow of Big Spring. How horizontal separations betweendo we account for the impressive numbers and different layers of rock. As waterflows of Missouri’s springs? At heart, the answer dissolves these cracks wider, more andlies in the unique nature of the land. Springs are more water can funnel through,products of karst topography; a type of terrain allowing the embryonic spring systemthat forms on carbonate bedrock—rocks of oceanic to grow.origin that will dissolve in acidic water. The amount of rock dissolved by Acidity is a key, because limestone and its large springs is truly prodigious. Jerrycousin dolostone, common components of Vineyard, co-author of Springs ofMissouri’s bedrock, wont’ dissolve to any extent in Missouri, has calculated thatpure water. But as rainwater percolates down Missouri’s largest spring, Big Spring,through the soil, it comes into contact with carbon flowing at an average rate of 275dioxide, the gas we exhale with every breath. In millions of gallons per day, in thatthe soil, CO2 comes from the breathing of same day dissolves and removes fromearthworms and insects and millions of other the underground 175 tons of rock.animals. Under higher pressure in the soil than in Over a year’s time that amounts tothe atmosphere above it, the gas is forced to 640,000 tons, equivalent to thedissolve into the downward percolating rainwater, creation of a new cave passage thirtycreating a weak carbonic acid solution (the same by fifty feet in cross section and a mileas in carbonated beverages), which can then eat long. It could be a slightly unsettlingaway at the walls of the cracks in the rock. thought to some people that flowing It is important to realize that percolating springs have been continuouslyMissouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 11
  12. 12. Spring Anatomy A Spring Recharge Areaundermining the land, day after day, for many county. That’s a lot of real estate, butthousands of years (although, realistically, the it’s not huge, and most springs aredissolving action is spread over many square miles much smaller than Big Spring andand the proportion of volume in conduits and cracks therefore have much smalleris small in comparison to the total rock mass, even in recharge areas. Between rains, mostwell developed karst). of this water resides in the Hydrologists point out that we can account for the subsurface, moving at different ratescontinuous flows of Missouri’s springs without through subterranean cracks andinvoking water from the Great Lakes or arctic conduits or temporarily stored inglaciers. They assure us that the ultimate source of underground pools, making its waywater is precipitation on the land surface, mostly rain toward the spring outlet.that has fallen nearby. The area of land that Spring flow networks form withincontributes water to a given spring is called its a three dimensional landscape, withrecharge area. Missouri gets an average of about depth as well as breadth. Theforty inches of precipitation a year (thirty-five in the thickness of the host rocks, the karstnorthwest corner to forty-five in the southeast), forming layers, help to determineequivalent to about 700 million gallons per square how large spring systems canmile per year. If we assume that about one-fourth of become. In the thick limestone andthis rain recharges the groundwater system (a fairly dolostone layers of the Salemcommon percentage in well developed karst), we Plateau, underlying the bulk ofarrive at a number of about 500,000 gallons per southern Missouri, there is plenty ofsquare mile per day. room and fracturing in three Using this number with our state’s largest spring, dimensions to allow really giganticBig Spring, we can calculate that to maintain its spring systems to form. On theaverage flow of 275 million gallons per day, we would Springfield Plateau, in the southwestneed about 550 square miles of recharge area, part of the state, with its thinnerroughly equivalent to the size of a small Missouri sequence of karst forming rocks, theMissouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 12
  13. 13. Spring Anatomy Ha Ha Tonka Spring (Photo by Author) Spring Branch with Jewelweed (Photo by Author)springs are generally smaller. Still, some rather average refrigerator. Scientists havelarge springs have developed on the Springfield found some variation from spring toPlateau and thousands of smaller springs dot both spring, and season to season, butthe Springfield and the Salem Plateaus. most hover in the 55 to 60 degree As most people know, springs are generally range. Bedrock, being a poorfound in valleys, not on hilltops. The plumbing conductor of heat, does not gain orsystems of really big springs develop within thick lose heat rapidly, so remains yearmasses of rock, and therefore these springs drain round at nearly the average annual airinto some of the deepest valleys in the state. temperature, about 58 degrees inRivers, as they continually erode downward into Missouri. Water flowing through thethe land, increasingly cut into pre-existing spring ground eventually becomes the samenetworks and conduits. It has taken a long time, temperature as the surrounding rock.probably millions of years, for springs as large as In spite of these explanations, someBig Spring to form. Over such long time spans, Missourians continue to insist thatrivers can change course. Cave conduits can spring water comes from the far north.collapse and detours be created. The systems are They would challenge anyone wadingextremely dynamic—ever changing. This ongoing into a spring branch on a hot summerinterplay between river downcutting and spring day to arrive at a different conclusion.conduit enlargement accounts for the wide variety People are also amazed at theof sizes and settings of springs that we see today. striking blueness of some of ourIt also determines why any given spring happens springs. Scientists explain that thisto emerge where it does. remarkable azure color is due Geologists also have an explanation for the primarily to the depth of water at theconstant cool temperatures of springs. Most spring outlet. Blue Spring, on thepeople would say that Missouri’s springs are cold. Current River, perhaps Missouri’sCold, however, is a relative term. Our state’s bluest, is also, at 300 feet, the deepestsprings are not ice cold, nor are they as cold as the of those which have been measured.Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 13
  14. 14. Going with the FlowBut subtle variations in hue are also affected by about the “old days” when Missouriparticles in the water and the angle and intensity had a deficit of karst scientists andof sunlight. The fact that this optical phenomenon even the word karst had hardlycan be explained by the physics of light and its entered the vernacular. In fact, Tomscattering by particles doesn’t diminish the age old entered the field through a side doorfascination. The sheer intensity of the blue color in himself.certain springs nearly overwhelms human senses, In the late 1950’s, he received atouching neurons deep in the brain that must degree in forestry from the Universitysurely register indescribable beauty. of California at Berkley. He became attracted to forestry, he said, becauseGoing with the Flow it was held out as the “premier discipline of renewable resource While science has explained a lot about springs, management,” although in practice,many questions remain about their origins and he jokes, it was often regarded as “theages and how they work. One Missourian who has profession where you make sawdust.”devoted the greater part of his life to unraveling Knowing that the National Foreststhe mysteries of springs is Tom Aley. Tall, lanky, had been set aside for both timber andwith a long white beard and prominent forehead water management, Tom went to workwhere he often rests his palm when thinking, Tom for the Forest Service, hoping from thecan sometimes be found at his home, which also beginning to incorporate into aserves as offices for the Ozark Underground Labo- forestry career his burning interest inratory near Protem, Missouri (which is not really caves and springs. Prior to this time,near anywhere, Tom likes to say). He speaks he suggests, water had been givenslowly, in measured tones, occasionally wrinkling “short shrift” in forest management.his nose in a nervous tic. He loves to tell stories Tom eventually left the Forest Big Spring (Photo by Author)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 14
  15. 15. Going with the FlowService and went on his own, eventually land. “Is there a job on this forest—purchasing Tumbling Creek Cave in southern here in Missouri?” he asked theMissouri in the mid 1960’s, where he planned to supervisor. “Yes. But we’re not at theestablish an unusual research facility—an top of the list.” “If I put on the formunderground laboratory. But the mortgage left that I’ll only work here, what wouldhim scratching for income, and he walked into the happen?” “You’d get the job.” “Whatlocal Forest Service headquarters in Springfield would I be doing” “Do you knowone day, ready to take any kind of forestry job to what karst is?”support his cave lab project. Unbeknownst to him, Tom’s nose must have wrinkled atduring his absence the Forest Service had begun to that point, as he patiently explainedtake watersheds more seriously, and had placed an that he actually knew quite a bitincreased emphasis on forest hydrology. The about karst. The supervisor went onService, in fact, was under a Congressional to mention that the Forest Servicemandate to hire people with professional water had authorization to establish theexpertise, and the agency currently had fourteen type example study for watershedopenings for hydrologists in the eastern US. Upon management in karst terrain. It washearing that Tom had a forestry background, the music to Tom’s ears, and he took theSupervisor in Springfield tried to convince him to job, even though it would pay onlyrejoin the agency. But Tom had just bought the forty percent of what he was makingcave, and intended to put down roots in at his previous professional gig,Missouri—roots that would surely find their way working as a hydrologist for ainto the cave lurking below his rocky, overgrazed California consulting firm.Jones Spring Jones Spring(Courtesy) (Courtesy)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 15
  16. 16. Going with the Flow Tom’s new job was based in Winona, Missouri, Tom decided that he needed towhere in 1966 he was assigned to the sixteen square do dye tracing to see where the lostmile Hurricane Creek topographic basin. He began flow of Hurricane Creek went. Hedriving around his watershed and discovered that studied dye tracing techniques,only the lowermost mile of the creek, just upstream consulting a United Statesof its confluence with the Eleven Point River, had any Geological Survey (USGS)water in it. It was a bit of a conundrum—how do you publication from 1906 as well asconduct a water flow study without water? Tom more recent literature fromrecognized, of course, that Hurricane Creek was a Yugoslavia, at the time a hotbed ofclassic losing stream, with most of its flow moving karst research. Dye tracing, heunderground a good part of the time. discovered, was not all that simple. He went to work getting ready for times of flow, First, there is the matter of whatsupplying the basin with rain gages and weirs to dye to use. Of course, any substancemeasure surface flows, when they occurred— composed of particles or piecesinstalling these devices himself, since no technicians small enough to fit through the flowwere available to help. In his spare time, he even network of a spring couldrepaired, without authorization, the old mill at theoretically be used as a tracer.Falling Spring (the Forest Service had recently This, in fact, has happened duringacquired this property), rebuilding the old flume and some rather unscientificovershot water wheel. Tom didn’t get much of a experiments, as when people threwlecture about his well-intentioned misdeed, however, cornstalks into the big sinkhole atother than “that’s not supposed to be the way we do Grand Gulf and later watched themthings here.” For their part, the locals applauded the emerge at Mammoth Spring.Forest Service for showing some interest in the Even a spring suddenlydecaying property and for saving the historic mill becoming muddy right after afrom ruin. sinkhole has collapsed in the Sander Spring, Greene County (Photo by Author)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 16
  17. 17. Going with the Flowvicinity constitutes a sort of trace, confirming an fairly good change that it’s correct.underground connection. Alley Springs on the Jacks To confirm undergroundFork River suddenly quit flowing in the 1930’s, a connections, scientists have largelydisconcerting event which the locals had never settled upon fluorescing dyes,witnessed before. After a few hours, flow resumed, which can be used in smallbut the water was muddy. Eventually, it was amounts and detected bydiscovered that a sinkhole had collapsed fifteen miles instruments in the laboratory,away shortly before the spring ceased flowing. A avoiding the potentialsimilar thing happened at Roaring River Spring, in embarrassment of turning springsthe far southwest part of the state, when the spring bright green or red. The waterbecame murky after a lake bottom collapsed on the tracing scientist must also makenearby upland. sure that he or she carefully Of course, one doesn’t need a geology degree to consults geologic maps andmake educated guesses about where water lost form monitors any possible outlets forthe surface might go. Take a look at topographic the emergence of tracer dye. Thismaps of Missouri and in the Ozarks you will see usually means “bugging” manymany streams named “Dry Creek” or “Dry Hollow” or springs and sometimes wells. The“Dry Fork” and the like. Simple intuition will tell you bugs (usually charcoal packets) arethat streams which rarely contain flow, even after set in the spring and checkedrains, are leaky and many people could put two and frequently to make sure they havetwo together when they see a flowing spring a fairly not absorbed dyes even before theshort distance away and down gradient from these tracing experiment begins (somelosing streams. It is deductive tracing, and there is a man-made materials, like Sequiota Spring, Red with Mud after Sinkhole Collapse (Photo by Author)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 17
  18. 18. Going with the Flow A Cascading Spring (Photo by Author)anti-freeze, can contain the same dyes). Hurricane even when invisible to the naked eye.Creek is a fairly large basin, so Tom knew he He spent only $60 of Forest Servicewould need to monitor springs over a considerable money on materials that first fiscalarea or the possible reappearance of his dye. year. Finally, he bought ten pounds He next needed to decide how much dye to use. fluorescein dye and looked for theFrom his study of maps and the local geology, he ideal injection point, which he foundsuspected that Hurricane Creek’s lost water went at a conspicuous losing section ofto Big Spring, about 18.5 miles to the east as the Hurricane Creek where he couldcrow flies. If true, this would mean that water lost actually hear water roaringfrom a tributary of the Eleven Point River went underground. This would be likeunder a major surface watershed divide and injecting dye directly into a jugular,resurfaced a at spring on the Current River, in a enhancing the prospects of success.different basin. If Tom was right, this would be a Tom also talked to Jerry Vineyard inlong trace attempt, so he would need a significant Rolla, who agreed to examine hisamount of dye. Using one of the equations he sample packets using the instrumentsfound in the literature, he calculated that he of the Geological Survey.should use 740 pounds! That seemed like an awful Tom injected the dye and to hislot, more than he really wanted to dump, and satisfaction, the packets collected atbesides, he didn’t even know where he could get Big Spring, when the dye was washedhis hands on that much dye or whether he could free or eluted from the charcoal,afford to buy it if he found it. colored the water a bright green. Even Tom started working in small spring systems before instrumental analysis, he knewwith tiny amounts of dye to perfect his technique. he had a positive trace. Soon,He used activated carbon samplers to capture and newspaper headlines read, “Forestconcentrate the dye, so he could use a lot less. The Service Discovers Source of Bigdye would be absorbed in a charcoal packet, Spring.” Tom and his work made thewashed free of the charcoal in the laboratory, and Sunday Features section of the Newthen detected in the wash water with instruments, York Times. The sudden glow ofMissouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 18
  19. 19. A Question of Purity Warning Sign at Small Spring, Greene County (Photo by Author)success reflected well on the Forest Service and its hy- practice. It was not always thatdrologic work, and didn’t hurt Tom’s career either. Tom way, of course. Up until relativelyproudly recalls that of the twenty special study recently, springs were consideredwatersheds in National Forests around the country, the purest sources of waterseveral were still in very preliminary stages at the time, available—much cleaner thanbut his was “up and running and producing results, and streams, akes, or even wells. Thiseven had an honest-to-goodness hydrologist running it.” commonly held notion of the Why is it so important to know where Big Spring, or purity of springs is reflected in aany spring for that matter, gets its water? For one thing, 1910 University of Missourispring water is not always as pure as we would like to publication, which informs usbelieve. Springs can have serious pollution problems, that spring water is generallysometimes with significant public health and financial “palatable, wholesome and freeramifications. Hundreds of Missouri springs, at some from organic impurities” due topoint in their histories, have been used for drinking “natural filtration in thewater supplies or supported some type of business—and subterranean strata.” Based onfor the most part, water pollution is bad for business. findings about the wide openWhen springs get polluted, people using or living near nature of underground flowthem, as well as agencies charged with groundwater systems, scientists would laterprotection, want to know where to look for the cause of challenge this assumption.the problem. Regulations may have been violated, or are A visit to Tom Aley’s Ozarktoo weak to adequately protect groundwater and Underground Laboratory willtherefore need to be strengthened. And thoughtful, tend to confirm suspicions aboutresponsible citizens will want to know how to prevent the vulnerability of spring water.such a thing from happening again. When tom is not out consulting on karst issues around the world,A Question of Purity he can sometimes be found leading tours of his own cave. He Nowadays, many people realize that drinking describes for his subterraneanuntreated spring water could constitute an unhealthy visitors how karst works and how caves form and especially, howMissouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 19
  20. 20. A Question of Purity Entrance to Tumbling Creek Cave (Photo by Author)easily spring and groundwater in the Ozarks direct and open connections between thecan become contaminated. He tries to get spring and the surface of the ground. Otherhis listeners to think three dimensionally springs, usually smaller ones, derive theirabout the landscape, something surface flow from systems that are less open, withdwellers have a hard time doing. On a cave tighter cracks in the rock. These are calledtour, he points to a crack in the ceiling. diffuse flow springs. They rise more slowly“We’re forty feet below the surface. If you’re when it rains but also drain more slowly.standing here twenty minutes after it starts The openness of the spring network has araining hard, you’ll see water come gushing direct bearing on how quickly and howout of that opening.” easily the spring can become contaminated This, he explains, makes the spring that by pollution in the recharge area.runs through his cave a classic example of a Of polluting events, Missouri springsdiscrete flow spring. That is, there are very have had their share. One of the first A Tour Group Inside Tom Aley’s Tumbling Creek Cave (Photo by Author)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 20
  21. 21. A Question of Purityscientists in Missouri to investigate the accomplished blacksmith and woodworker.contamination of springs was Edward He grew up in northeastern Missouri, inShepard, the man who explored Greer Spring Schuyler County. As a kid he collectedin 1905. Shepard arrived from the glacial erratics, foreign rocks carried downnortheastern United States in 1877 to teach from the north by glaciers during the Icegeology and chemistry classes at Drury College Age. His interest in geology led him to thein Springfield. In 1915, he wrote a book about South Dakota School of Mines where, as aGreene County in which he noted that thesis subject, he decided to focus on thesinkholes (funnel or bowl-shaped depressions hydrologic properties of water wells in thatwhere soil has slumped into underground state. But his Chair detected a lack ofsolution openings in the bedrock) often enthusiasm for his proposal. “That’s okay.appeared in clusters. Shepard deduced, But what do you really want to do?” “Well,correctly, that sinkholes reflect the presence of I’d really like to do something in karst.”fissures underground, with lines of sinkholes “Then why don’t you?” “I didn’t know Iand their elongations mirroring the prevailing could.” “Look, we have students doingdirections of subterranean fractures. He their work in Iran. I think you could attheorized that cases of typhoid fever in eastern least go to Missouri to study karst.”Greene County originated at a cemetery near a So with the help of Jerry Vineyard, whocluster of sinkholes. Later scientists would agreed to serve on his committee, Jim setconfirm suspected connections like this via dye up a project to study karst hydrology in thetracing, a tool Shepard lacked, but his work North Fork River basin of south-centralsuggested that in karst terrain, a spring or well Missouri. In 1978, he moved to Dora,could be contaminated from pollution sources Missouri, but soon had a problem. Hisa considerable distance away. fellowship ran out, and he needed to find Another man who has investigated his share paying work while finishing his project. Heof spring pollution, and continues to do so had earlier earned a teaching certificate intoday, is Jim Vandike, an employee with the science and math from Northeast MissouriMissouri Department of Natural Resources. State in Kirksville, and signed up as aJim wears a beard and a wide grin and is an substitute teacher in Dora. When the Outfall of Fulbright Spring, Greene County (Photo by Author)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 21
  22. 22. A Question of Puritysecretary at the school district office found that hydrologically connected to the Westhe held a science certificate, she sprang form Plains area. This gigantic spring, pouringher chair. “You’re a science teacher? Don’t from the ground right on the Missouri-move.” Soon, the superintendent Arkansas line, supports a fish hatchery andappeared and took Jim into his office, where gives birth to the Spring River, a popularhe explained that the district was already a canoeing stream. After the lagoon collapsemonth into the school year and still had no in West Plains, bacterial levels jumped andscience teacher. Jim was offered and accepted dissolved oxygen slumped in the spring. Asthe full-time job at $5,200 a year. strange as it might sound however, the But the next year, Jerry Vineyard called situation could have been worse, illustrat-with an offer to work for the Missouri ing one slightly redeeming feature of wideGeological Survey in reservoir yield analysis. open groundwater flow systems. The lostThat summer, Jim moved to Rolla and has sewage followed a beeline trajectorybeen there ever since. His first experience with toward Mammoth Spring, seeminglyspring contamination actually occurred right polluting very few wells along the way.before he left the teaching job at Dora. In 1978, “Springs,” Jim explains, “take watera sinkhole suddenly opened up in the bottom from a fairly wide area and concentrate theof the West Plains wastewater lagoon, flow into one or a very few well definedemptying most of its contents, about thirty to flow paths, rather than stuff in the flowforty million gallons of sewage, into the path going out into the aquifer. So unlessshallow groundwater. Because Jim had worked you were unlucky enough to have your wellin the North Fork basin, immediately west of go into over very near the conduit, thereWest Plains, and had produced new maps was a good change you didn’t see anyfrom dye tracing and other geologic field work, impact.”he was called to help. In the fall of 1981, Jim got a call from Not surprisingly, at least to the geologists, Mr. Gallagher, the hatchery manager atthe most serious problems from the leaking Meramec Spring in central Missouri, wholagoon showed up at Mammoth Spring, which told him that dissolved oxygen levels in theprevious dye tracing had shown to be spring had dropped precipitously and the Mammoth Spring, Arkansas (Courtesy City-Data. com)Missouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 22
  23. 23. A Question of Purity Trout in Meramec Spring (Photo by Author)fish were getting sick. Fall is normally a fairly The company planned to quickly pumpquiet time of the year, when water quality the water onto adjacent fields for fertil-doesn’t change much, and there hadn’t been izer. But before they could act, it rained,any recent rain. Jim checked with his DNR flushing the nitrate-laden water down-cohort, Jim Williams, who recalled that a stream into a losing section, where itpipeline had ruptured on the Phelps-Dent promptly submerged and traveled atCounty line the week before, near the little least 12.8 miles underground totown of Lake Spring. The old oil pipeline had Meramac Spring.been converted to carry liquid fertilizer, a mixof ammonium nitrate and urea containingabout 32% nitrogen by weight. The producthad also been tagged with fluorescein dye, sothat a leak would tint any contaminated watera sickly yellowish green. That is exactly what happened. A landownersaw a bright, unnaturally green pool of waterin the creek on his farm and immediatelycalled the pipeline company, which respondedpromptly to repair the leak. The companycalculated that about 1,200 gallons of fertilizerhad spewed out through a pencil-sized hole inthe estimated four to five days before it wasdiscovered. The fertilizer flowed into a pool onDry Creek, “in a little gaining section of anotoriously losing stream” as Jim described it.The tainted pool was definitely “hot,” contain-ing over 100 milligrams per liter of nitrate, andMissouri Springs: Power, Purity and Promise 23