Big Spring (Missouri)

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Big Spring
Big Spring low flow 240 cfs.JPG
Big Spring in Missouri is the largest spring in the Ozarks. Pictured here at 240 cu ft/s (6.8 m3/s) experiencing low flow after an extended dry period.
CountryUnited States
RegionOzark Plateau
Physical characteristics
SourceEleven Point River watershed
 - locationSalem Plateau, Ozark Plateau, Missouri
 - coordinates[1]
MouthCurrent River (Missouri)
 - location
near Van Buren, Carter County, Ozark Plateau, Missouri
 - coordinates
36°57′08″N 90°59′39″W / 36.95222°N 90.99417°W / 36.95222; -90.99417Coordinates: 36°57′08″N 90°59′39″W / 36.95222°N 90.99417°W / 36.95222; -90.99417[2]
 - elevation
429 ft (131 m)[3]
Length0.2 mi (0.32 km)
 - locationBig Spring (Missouri)[1]
 - average470 cu ft/s (13 m3/s)[2]
 - minimum236 cu ft/s (6.7 m3/s)
 - maximum2,000 cu ft/s (57 m3/s)

Big Spring is one of the largest springs in the United States and the world.[3] An enormous first magnitude spring, it rises at the base of a bluff on the west side of the Current River valley in the Missouri Ozarks. Located about four miles downstream from Van Buren, it is within the boundaries of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and its visitor facilities are managed by the National Park Service. It is a contributing resource to Big Spring Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.[4][5]

The average flow of 470 cubic feet (13,000 L) of water per second [6] from Big Spring constitutes the second largest tributary of the Current River. The spring is by far the largest spring in the Ozark Plateau region. The only two springs in the Ozark region that approach the size of Big Spring are Greer Spring and Mammoth Spring. Maximum discharge of Big Spring must be estimated because backwater from the Current River makes accurate high water measurements impossible. The spring issues from the base of a limestone bluff, churning out aqua-blue water with great force, creating white caps, then quickly calming to a crystal clear channel. The spring water travels about 1,000 feet (300 m) where it adds itself to the Current River. The water is about 58 degrees Fahrenheit (13.3 °C), and the spring is surrounded by a well maintained park and a steep valley hillside covered in hardwood forest. Most of the known drainage basin encompasses northern areas of the Eleven Point River watershed. Big Spring is ever increasing in size, as the groundwater continues to dissolve limestone in a vast karst system, and continuation of stream capture in greater quantities. The spring is estimated to dissolve and remove 175 tons of limestone during an average day. The amounts of limestone dissolved and removed by the spring system in one year is estimated to equal a one-mile (1.6 km) long cave 30 feet (9.1 m) high 50 feet (15 m) wide,[7] though that amount is dispersed among all parts of the karst system.

Spring branch from Big Spring in Missouri flowing toward the Current River.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ USGS Surface Water data for US – Big Spring 1981-2009
  2. ^ USGS Surface Water data for US – Big Spring 1981-2009
  3. ^ Vineyard and Federer, 1982, p. 12
  4. ^ Milton F. Perry and Jill M. York (June 1980). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Big Spring Historic District" (PDF). Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2016-11-01.
  5. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  6. ^ USGS Surface Water data for US – Big Spring 1981-2009
  7. ^ Vineyard and Federer, 1982, p. 68
  • Vineyard, Jerry D.; Fender, Gerald L. (1982) [1974]. Springs of Missouri (PDF). Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Land Survey. Library of Congress Card Catalog No. 73-620125.

External links[edit]