People around Williamsville have a good thing going and they’re not about to let it die. The good thing is Markham Springs Campground, set in a gorgeous hunk of Ozark forest, bubbling springs and history alongside the Black River, three miles west of town off Missouri 49. The campground is part of Markham Springs Recreation Area in the Mark Twain National Forest.
The U.S. Forest Service, short on money and visitors, was ready to close the campground after its popularity faded in the 1990s, but the Williamsville Area Progress Committee (WAPC) sprang into action to keep this long-time community focal point alive. Junior and Ellen Durrow are in their second season as volunteer campground hosts. Junior is glad to show a visitor around the premises, pointing out the new showerhouse, upgraded campsites, the old millhouse and water wheel, spring and trails.
Anglers have done well fishing in the river over the years and hunters enjoy camping here, just four miles from the Cane Ridge Wildlife Area, he said. He praises the community for coming together with the Forest Service to keep the park open. The committee furnished portable restrooms last season. A local tie company donated firewood for campers. Volunteers turned out to clear brush, pick up trash and maintain trails.
“Money’s tight with the government right now, but with Mr. Olson, we’re getting our share,” he said. KC Olson, ranger with the U.S. Forest Service office in Doniphan, is equally complimentary.
“There’s a lot to be done. We’re getting lots of help from the committee. They do their share,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, it would have been closed.” Besides repairing damage from floods, a major upcoming project is reroofing the Fuchs house, a joint project with the WAPC.
Brenda Shearrer, a member of WAPC, says as many as 50 people in the community of 367 have been involved in keeping the park open and working on the Old Tyme Country Festival, an annual event at the park since 2000. Additional Information on this year’s festival is slated for Saturday, June 14, and will include crafters, food, antique tractors and live music all day.
The Durrow brothers’ group, the Otter Creek Band, will be there along with other groups including Drive Tyme, the Pickle Barrel Jammers, the Black River Bottom Boys, Second Time Around, Chestnut Mountain and Bailey and Friends.
Shearrer recalls the days when carloads of people from St. Louis, Poplar Bluff and all around visited Markham Springs with their tents, picnic baskets and inner tubes. “Where ever I go, I talk to people who have good memories of Markham Springs. I have high hopes to see people coming back and families having good times.” Olson notes that visitor numbers were up 60 percent last year and Durrow says he’s heard through the grapevine that traffic has increased in Williamsville. That’s a sign of good things to come for Markham Springs.
History, facilities at Markham Springs Campground
Markham Springs is located near the top of Ozark Dome, a geological structure formed by ancient volcanic activity. A grist mill and saw mill was located here before 1850.
Jefferson Markham bought the mill property in 1901 and ground grain until 1907. Farmers from miles around camped on the river banks while their grain was processed. In the 1930s, Rudolph Fuchs bought the idle mill and replaced it with the present wheelhouse to produce electricity for his dwelling. But it wasnʼt long until the Rural Electrification Administration brought power to the entire valley. The picturesque mill has stood idle for years along with lovely Fuchs home overlooking the blue-green, 20-ft. deep, two-acre spring pond that Fuchs built. Six springs flow into the pond, producing five million gallons of water a day. A small island extends toward the center of the pond and is often the scene of weddings and other events.
There is also a bubbling spring outside of the pond area. Air rises in the soft sand forming the unusual bubbles. The shady, spring-cooled areas have been the site of many a family and school reunion or outing with friends. Scouts have easy access to plants and wildlife in the park. Churches hold services in the park and baptisms at the boat dock. A nearby quarry used to provide canoe rental in Markham Springsʼ heyday and that service is expected to return soon. Black River Stone quarry owners Finn and Anne Gottschalk plan to establish a canoe livery this summer.
The U.S. Forest Service acquired the site in 1965 and built facilities using corps from the Poplar Bluff Civilian Conservation Center. The campground has 14 electrical sites with 30 and 50 amp service, 62 primitive sites and pit toilets. No reservations are available. Eagle Bluff Trail features a scenic overlook where, on a clear day, you can see Clark Mountain to the north.
River Hills Traveler
The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom.
Joined: Dec 2007 Posts: 10 Re: Marham Spring - Mark Twain National Forest ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- very nice slide show. Great job. I was under the impression that the national forest sites did not have electric. Now that I know I'm wrong we may consider some of those areas on future trips. After all, they cost less than the state parks, with Connie's discount. Now, are there any that have flush toilets?