Eminence is a tiny village 68 miles south of Rolla, pop. 600, so I thought it would be easy for me to see the sights in a few hours. Wrong.
The pace is leisurely and activities are numerous, with scenic beauty at every bend in the road. It is perfect for a day trip. Even though the area was hard-hit by flooding this past spring, residents are rebuilding and recovering. It doesn’t take long to see why they love this charming place.
No visit to Eminence is complete without exploring Alley Spring Mill: part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The old grist mill, built in 1893, is open every day of the week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Exploring the inner works of the beautifully restored red mill give one a sense of the time when local farmers and families came to process their grain and socialize. But it is the setting which gives the mill its reputation as the most photographed site in Missouri: the turquoise spring with an average daily output of 84 million gallons per day, the rolling forested hills, flowing waters, huge trees. It is lovely. I peek in the restored one-room schoolhouse on the grounds, browse the picnic pavilion and stop by the small old-time general store.
Alley Spring will host Haunting in the Hills on Oct. 13 with evening folklore; on Oct. 14, the Ozark past lives again in demonstrations, food, dancing, bluegrass, and folk music. The same weekend, the 49th Annual Scenic Rivers Arts and Craft Bazaar will take place at the Circle B campground, just west of Eminence, drawing an estimated six thousand folks to enjoy live bluegrass music, great food and shopping.
Speaking of shopping; antiques and flea market goods catch my eye as I explore quaint downtown Eminence, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Districts. I get a tour of historic Winfield’s: once a popular restaurant and soda fountain. Falkenberry’s shopkeeper Kara Fogertey says the owner hopes to refurbish and reopen it soon. A beautifully carved oak bedframe calls to me amongst the antiques and architectural art, and it is reasonably priced. Hmm.
Strolling up Main Street, I’m invited to tour Hawkins House Bed and Breakfast, but can’t go in the bedrooms: they’re all booked. The home is over 100 years old and beautifully restored, with a boutique in the lobby. Places to stay in Eminence are plentiful; from campgrounds and small cabins to deluxe hotels. Locals suggest I check out the River’s Edge Resort, just across the Jacks Fork bridge.
River’s Edge is peaceful and lovely. It is worth visiting just to see the iron sculptures created by co-owner/creative genius Alan Peters. From there, I drive past Eagle Falls Adventures (ATV/UTV tours are held here-their zipline is closed since the flood) heading toward Salty Jack’s Bar and Grill; a popular watering hole, right on the river.
All things equine are well catered to in Eminence. I explore the Cross Country Trail Ride complex; if you have a horse, coming here should be on your bucket list. Coldwater Horse Camp offers cabins or camping for you, a stable for your horse, and scenic trails to ride. If you don’t have a horse you can rent one from the wranglers at Hay Hollow Stables where guided trail adventures await.
Kayaks, canoes and inner tubes are easy to come by at one of three outfitters on the Jacks Fork. Though only eight miles by car, it is a four hour paddle from Alley Springs to Eminence; as you float downstream, the cares of the world are literally washed away. Other scenic wonders in the area include Rocky Falls, minutes east of Eminence, where sounds of the falls spilling over lava rocks tune the air of the forested picnic grounds. A short drive and short hike away is sapphire-hued Blue Spring. Old Klepzig Mill sits near Rocky Falls, as is the Peck Ranch Elk restoration site where elk bugling can be heard in the fall. The Ozark Trail bisects the region for hikers/backpackers to enjoy, and there is a museum in downtown Eminence for the historically-minded. There is a pretty nine-hole golf course just east of Hwy. 19.
A local suggests I visit Dos Rios Mexican Grill where the guacamole is authentic and the beer is cold, so I troop over, in the name of investigative reporting. It is good. Eminence has several eateries to choose from: restaurants and diners to the ever popular Dairy Shack for fast food and ice cream.
Visit Eminence for as long as you’re able, and leave your timepiece at home. With apologies to the Beatles, this ‘Day Tripp(er)’ concludes with my new Eminence memories—“It took me so long to find out: but I found out.”