Maramec Spring powered one of the first iron furnaces in Missouri.

Name: Maramec

Location: Phelps County, Missouri

Rank: 5

Average Flow: 100 million gallons per day (155 cubic feet per second)

Recharge Area: Much of the Maramec Spring recharge area lies to to the south and southwest along the Dry Fork of what becomes the Meramec River with the influx of the spring. According to James Vandike, it encompasses a 310 square mile area. The spring has been entered for about 3000 feet and to a depth of 233 feet.

Interesting Information: Maramec Spring was first noted in survey reports in 1823. Three years later, the first iron furnace west of the Mississippi was established on its banks. Southern cavefish and Salem cave crayfish, usually denizens of deep beneath the earth, were not known from the spring until they washed out of the spring after an ammonia pipeline rupture polluted the groundwater in its recharge area in 1981. It took three months and frequent rains for the water quality to return to normal. Deep within the spring the water is quite cold--47 degrees--when it should be nearly 10 degrees warmer.

Brief History: After meeting traveling natives decorated with hematite paint, Thomas James, an ironmonger from Ohio allegedly pursuaded them to show him where the paint came from. He found a filled sink iron deposit, ample supplies of limestone, plenty of trees for charcoal and a ready power source on the banks of Maramec Spring. He and his heirs purchased the land and went into the iron business here just five years after Missouri statehood. For the next fifty years, the Maramec Iron Works supplied pig and wrought iron locally and for export, creating a substantial fortune for the James family. A community of two to three hundred prospered for many years, falling on hard times not entirely of their own making in the 1870's. William James went bankrupt. Much of the property was sold. When William James died in 1912, his granddaughter, Mrs. Lucy Wortham James bought out the other heirs, and reacquired Maramec Spring. Before she passed away in 1938, she established The James Foundation, to manage the property as a private park, "open to the enjoyment of the people."

Ownership and Access: The James Foundation, part of the New York Community Trust. Maramec Spring Park is open to visitors for a nominal fee, and features the spring, historical exhibits relating to the iron works days, and stocked trout fishing.


The Maramec hematite mine at the park.

This page last updated on May 17, 2006.
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