Welch Spring is unique in meeting the air before meeting the sunlight.

Name: Welch

Location: Shannon County, Missouri

Rank: 6

Average Flow: 105* million gallons per day (165* cubic feet per second) (See Text)

Recharge Area: To the east and northeast under the Gladden Creek valley. Several sinkholes on this poorly drained plateau pirate water to the spring, as well as Gladden Creek itself. Exact delineation has not yet been done. The spring has been entered for about 1500 feet and to an average depth of 130 feet.

Interesting Information: Even though Welch Spring has more average flow than Maramec, the number of records on the spring (38) versus thousands for Maramec give it a lower relative ranking. The spring itself rises 350 feet inside the gated, and closed cave behind the bluff from which the spring branch meets the sunlight, one of the few large Ozark springs to do so. The spring emerges from below river level, and its bluff exit is only a few feet above the Current River, causing backflooding at high flow, making true maximum measurements difficult. The Current doubles in size as a result of Welch Spring.

Brief History: Homesteaded in 1855 by Thomas Welch whose family ran a gristmill at the site until 50 years after the Civil War. The spring and 40 acres were sold in 1913 to Dr. Christian Diehl of Roxana, Ill., who spent the next thirty years alternately practicing medicine in Illinois during the winter, and building and promoting a sanatarium and rest camp for asthma sufferers at the spring, trying to take advantage of the supposedly medicinal cave air. The sanitarium was never a paying success. Remains of the hospital still stand. After Dr. Diehl's untimely death, the property was sold to a succession of owners who managed it as a trout fishing resort until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1967.

Ownership and Access: Owned by the National Park Service since 1967. Lodge building in disrepair. Best access is via canoe float Cedargrove to Akers Ferry, though you can walk a trail from the lodge along former trout runs. As noted above, the hospital building and cave are GATED and CLOSED for bats and safety reasons.

Dr. Diehl's hospital building has been gated for bats since this photo.

This page last updated on May 17, 2006.
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