Missouri's Second Wonder: Ozark National Scenic Riverways
The Current River isn't wild, but it still attracts many people. Rent a canoe and float downstream and there's a good chance you'll see other folks doing the same thing and, if you're quiet and lucky, you might see deer. If the waterways are the soul of the park, then Alley Spring is its heart.
"Our divers have been able to go down 35-40 feet and then they've been able to tunnel in approximately a mile and a half," said Park Ranger Annette Nicols.
Rangers like Nicols wear period clothes, so it's easy to imagine life in a simpler time, when the old store traded goods with local farmers.
"You can see how their lives were just by the products that were available to them," said Park Ranger Pamela Eddy. "There were about 11 buildings here at Alley in 1895. Those included a general store, a blacksmith's shop, the mill, several homes and in the store was usually the Post Office."
The Storeys Creek one-room school taught local children, if they could make it to class.
"Hands were needed at home to help with the crops."
"If they learned just enough to read, they were thankful for that. They were grateful. They appreciated their education then."
Just a short walk from the schoolhouse, Alley Spring Mill is restored as a museum. The 1894 mill displays much of its original equipment that turned corn into meal and wheat into flour.
Step outside and you'll see Alley Spring itself: a cool, blue pool that spills into the Spring Branch.
Frequent visitors Ariel and Marcus Guthery come to Alley Spring for more than the scenery.
"I have fished the Current River quite a bit," recalled Marcus, "just seeing if anything has made its way up this way."
But, the rivers themselves aren't the only attraction in the park. Rocky Falls is a great place to relax and have fun in a beautiful setting.
"This stuff here was made about 1 and a half billion years ago," said Park Ranger Bill O'Donnell.
He's not surprised KOMU viewers picked the Ozark National Scenic Riverways as Missouri's Second Wonder.
"There's a lot of river systems around the country now that have been preserved, based on our model, because we were the first," he noted.
O'Donnell said the beauty is in the simplicity.
"You don't need a lot of planning or prior homework," he added.
All you have to do is ease on down the river.