Our 2022 summer included a visit to my sister and her family, newly moved to central Missouri. Most of our visit was spent at their house or enjoying a nearby lake, but we decided to take a day trip on the final day of our visit. After a few scorching hot days with high humidity, the temperature had dropped enough to actually enjoy an afternoon outdoors. So, we decided to visit nearby Maramec Spring Park Missouri.

If you’ve never seen a spring like this, it’s well worth a visit. My dad has talked about seeing Big Spring, Missouri and how impressive it is. While Big Spring is the largest of Missouri’s natural springs, Maramec Spring makes the top five.

Maramec Spring Park Missouri – Location, Hours and Cost

Maramec Spring is located outside the town of St. James in Phelps County, Missouri, about halfway between St. Louis and Springfield. It’s no more than 15 minutes off Interstate 44, making it an easy stop if you’re just passing through the area.

The park is privately owned and managed by The James Foundation. The entry cost is very reasonable, at just $5 per car per day.

In addition to the spring itself, you can enjoy seeing a trout hatchery, grist mill, and old iron furnace. Other activities include fishing in the stream, picnicking, and seeing the visitor center. The park also offers camping and contains a café.

Hours vary throughout the year, but they are generally dawn to after dusk. The latest Maramec Spring Park opens is 7:30 AM, and the earliest it closes in 5:00 PM. Fishing hours start later and end earlier each day. You can check them out here.

Trout Hatchery

Our first stop on our way to the spring was the trout hatchery. The kids enjoyed seeing all the fish at a few different stages of growth. The park releases fish regularly into the stream, and you can fish just downstream, less than 100 yards from the hatchery.

If you park near the beginning of the park instead of by the visitor center like we did, your walk to the spring will take you right past the hatchery.

Stunning Maramec Spring

Continuing along the walkway brought us to Maramec Spring itself. It’s a exquisite pool of blue water. There are many large trout lazily enjoying the main spring. I was surprised how calm it was, given that it outputs an average of 100 million gallons of water per day.

But we weren’t quite there yet. Further back, we could see where the spring actually discharges. The surface ripples as the water flows up from inside the earth. I’ve seen springs before, but never anything like this! It is truly stunning how much water flows out of this single point every day.

We were even here during a particularly dry spell when the flow would have been average or less. During peak periods, Maramec Spring discharges four times its typical flow! I’d love to visit sometime when its output is nearly a half billion gallons per day!

The boys enjoyed the spring as well, although there were some complaints about the heat. Given that it was in the mid-80s and not mid-90s like it had been a few days prior, I didn’t feel all that bad for them. Plus, most of the park is shaded. It’s still a shock coming from northern California where our summer highs are generally in the 70s.

Maramec Spring Iron Furnace

One of the coolest things you can see at Maramec Spring Park Missouri is the old iron furnace. The area around the spring was settled in 1826 with the construction of the Maramec Iron Works. Power provided by the stream discharging from the spring, abundant hardwood fuel, and access to nearby iron ore made it an excellent location for such a business.

The Maramec Iron Works operated for 50 years, from 1826 to 1876 before finally closing. The location was good for smelting iron, but markets were difficult to reach from St. James. This is the water wheel cottage that provides power.

Museums

Finally, Maramec Spring Park contains two museums you’ll likely enjoy:

  • Maramec Museum of Natural and Cultural History – This museum highlights the area history and the workings of the natural wonder that is Maramec Spring
  • Ozark Agricultural Museum – Learn about life in the 1800s when the vast majority of the country was agrarian. There is plenty of cool old machinery to see.

Final Thoughts on Maramec Spring Park Missouri

Maramec Spring impressed me greatly, both with its sheer beauty and the amount of water that it discharges. I knew springs like this exist. It was just weird seeing one in person for the first time. And this one is fifth on the list of Missouri’s largest springs!

If you’re passing through Missouri on a road trip, or are otherwise in the area, I recommend you stop for a visit. The park is worth at least an hour, more if you visit the museums.