Roaring River Spring
The state of Missouri has certainly been blessed with an abundance of springs as there are more than twenty-nine hundred officially recorded. These natural outpourings of water played an important part in the early development of the state and have always been a valuable source of water and power. Springs can supply a constant supply of clean water that is cold and relatively pure. The Missouri Department of Conservation's five trout hatcheries have taken advantage of this resource in a big way. Out of these five hatcheries, four use spring water to raise rainbow trout. Together these five hatcheries produce more than 2.5 million trout per year.
Roaring River Spring emerges in a valley wall of Roaring River Hollow at the base of a massive cliff of Cotter Limestone. It is the largest spring in the White River basin with an annual average daily flow of 20.4 million gallons per day. The spring is the 20th largest in Missouri and the water is a constant 57°. The highest ever recorded flow was 144 million gallons per day and the lowest ever recorded was 4.8 million gallons per day. The spring follows a fault line that trends to the north with a displacement of about two feet. This fault is easily visible to someone standing in front of the bluff from which the spring emerges as it continues upward for about 90 feet. Adding to the beauty is another smaller spring perched at the top of this fault.
Springs are commonly found in areas with that have Karst topography, and Missouri has large areas. Karst is a term used to describe an area where the dissolving of rock, due to the movement of groundwater, has led to the formation of losing streams, caves, springs and sinkholes. The bedrock of these areas are predominantly dolomite and limestone. Rainwater mixes with carbon dioxide and forms a weak carbonic acid that moves through cracks and fractures in the bedrock. Over time, the rock dissolves, and the channels get larger. Simply put, a spring is the primary outlet point for groundwater that is moving through these karst systems. A variety of animals and fish live in and around springs. One such fish is the Ozark Cavefish, which the presence of or lack of can tell much about the health of the spring.
Divers have explored the spring on several occasions with the last attempt occurring in 1999. The spring opening descends to a depth of 224 feet. To learn more about the spring and see underwater pictures, follow the link below.
All springs are different and have many varied features but all share one common trait. Each has an area from which it receives recharging from rainfall. Of the rain that falls in the recharge area, only about one third make it to the groundwater system. The rest is lost to evaporation, plants and runoff. Where does the water come from that emerges from Roaring River? A large surface area to the North, South and West is an area of very little runoff. One of these areas drains twenty square miles and is aptly named Dry Hollow. This drainage system only has water in it during periods of high rainfall. The flow of Roaring River Spring rises dramatically when this area receives much rain. But the source of Roaring River Spring was a mystery to the first settlers who arrived and for many years the source of more legend than fact.
"In early times, perhaps long before those first settlers arrived, Roaring River itself, originating from that very deep spring which comes up in a sort of cave under an overhanging bluff, flowed meanderingly through this hill-cupped valley into the White river. Water rose up in a great volume from this spring and poured out with a terrific roar, a roar that inspired and gave the name for our beautiful river which is said to be the shortest charted river in the United States. An interesting development took place, however, with respect to the roar emanating from the spring. When the dam was built in 1865 confining the water over the spring, that perpetual and reverberating roar was brought to an abrupt end and has never been heard since. Through the years a veil of mystery has surrounded this eternal source of clear sparkling water which flows through this picturesque valley. The exact depth of this legendary spring is not known but reports are that it sounded at 300 feet....The source of this extremely cold water bursting from a considerable depth underground is, of course, not known, but it would be reasonable to assume that some northern lake many miles away contributes much of this abundant water supply." (Roaring River Realities, Wanda Brewer)
Modern scientific research has taken much of the mystery out of where the water comes from and the source of Roaring River has been identified by several different methods. Dye Trace Map One way to find out where spring water comes from is dye testing. One such test occurred on a gentle rolling area known as Washburn Prairie a few miles south of Cassville. This area is underlain with Burlington Keokuk limestone and has many sinkholes. Florescent dye was injected in a sinkhole in this prairie on April 14, 1993. After a few days, the dye reappeared at Roaring River Spring 6.25 miles away. The spring pool at Roaring River Spring is more then 400 feet lower then the bottom of the sinkhole where the dye was placed. The dye had to move more than six miles horizontally and downward more than 400 feet through rock in less than eight days.
Beckman, H.C. Hinchey, N.S. 1944. The Large Springs of Missouri. Missouri Geological Survey and Water Resources. Rolla Missouri
Miller, Don E. Vandike, James E. 1997. Groundwater Resources of Missouri. Missouri Department Of Natural Resources. Rolla
Vineyard, Jerry D. Feder, Gerald L. 1974. Springs of Missouri. Missouri Geological Survey and Water Resources. Rolla.