Neil Ellis Photos: Greer Springs In The Missouri Ozarks



Neil writes

Greer Spring on the Eleven Point River may be the most beautiful spot we have found after many hiking and canoeing trips through the Ozarks.

Until several years ago the shoreline was private property, and the only access was a steep half-mile trail, which was itself guarded by a caretaker in her eighties, who would allow entry to visitors only after delivering a stern lecture on trail etiquette and administering a pledge that prohibited gum and cigarettes.

Whether because of the caretaker’s pledge or the restricted entrée (which limited the number of sightseers), the land along the spring and the spring itself were pristine, free of the typical detritus and, indeed, any taint of human visitation. Our arrival on the riverbank was accompanied by the sense that we were the first people to come upon this spot, a feeling undiminished by the fact that we knew it to be inaccurate.

This photo was taken in the late afternoon with soft light filtering down through the surrounding forest.

Greer Springs Information1

The Logistics
Located in Oregon County in south central Missouri, the Greer Spring branch of the Eleven Point River has an average flow of 222 million gallons per day, which is equivalent to 344 cubic feet per second, making it the third largest of the Ozarks springs.2

The spring drops 62 feet in its 1.25 mile run from its source to the Eleven Point River, an exceptionally steep gradient that results in a current so powerful that boating is prohibited.3

Historical Highlights
The area was homesteaded by Thomas Simpson in 1845. After purchasing 40 acres in 1859, Samuel Greer and his father operated a mill in the gorge by 1860. Because of the steep grade of the land, oxen were trained to haul grain up and down the hill without a driver.

While the younger Greer was serving with the Confederate troops,4 other Confederates burned the family mill, which was rebuilt after the war.

When demand for milling increased, Greer rebuilt the mill 0.75 miles away, atop the ridge and conveyed power by a series of cables.

Milling continued until 1920. The property was then owned by the Louis Denning family, who used it as a family retreat from 1922 to 1988. After efforts to establish a water bottling plant failed, the property was sold to U.S. Forest Service in 1993.

Current Status Of Greer Spring
Information about camping and hiking in this area, including maps and descriptions of scenery, is available at The Ozark Trail

Neil Ellis Photos: Neil is an old friend of mine who plays a respectable round of golf, identifies unseen birds by their calls, completes the New York Times Friday Crossword in ink, and snaps a heck of a photo.5 His photos are featured here at and can be found collected at Neil Ellis Photos.

Note: Originally posted May 28, 2007 at


  1. The information in this section is from Large Ozarks Springs []
  2. Until some time after 1900, Greer Spring, then called Big Ozark Spring, was thought to be the largest spring in the state. []
  3. This branch has, in fact, been the site of two deaths: prior to 1932, a man attempting to canoe the waters drowned and in 1884, Lewis Greer, son of the mill builder, fell to his death on the rocks of the branch while working on the mill renovation. []
  4. Missouri was a border state during the Civil War with many of its citizens fighting for the Confederates and many others joining the Union forces []
  5. Supporting my assessment of the quality of Neil’s photos is the fact that they frequently show up – usually unattributed – on other sites. []

One thought on “Neil Ellis Photos: Greer Springs In The Missouri Ozarks

  1. Three deaths, actually. My dad’s at-the-time fiancé drowned there on MD weekend in 1952 in a raft accident. Her name was Ruth Savilla Hamilton. My dad was Ted Simpson. There were two others in the boat.

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