Among Missouri’s most beautiful drives, Highway 19 makes a right turn at Cherryville and then curves and dips toward Salem. Ruth, who had 2 teeth extracted the day before, was shocked when entering Salem. She remembered it as a small Ozark town. Now a bustling city of 5,000, Salem is the place to stay for travelers enjoying the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Salem’s attractions, which had less appeal on a cold March day with afternoon snow in the forecast, included Bo’s Hollow, a 1930s village that had just reopened for the season, and the Dent County Museum in a 1895 house that wouldn’t reopen until Memorial Day.
The Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the first national park area to protect a river system, makes a huge upside down Y in southern Missouri following the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers. Highway 19 crosses through it near Round Spring just north of Eminence in the most mountainous part of its entire length. The Ozarks are very impressive here as is beautifully blue Round Spring that pumps out 26,000,000 gallons of water on a typical day and augments the Current. Round is just one of several major springs in an area also known for its caves.
Unlike Salem, Eminence looked just as it had when Ruth was growing up. As we passed through, memories of her grandparents made her forget mouth and road discomfort for a bit. Newly married, Oscar & Ruth, Ruth’s grandparents, lived at nearby Alley Spring before moving to Summersville. Named for a grandmother whom she loved, Ruth spent lots of growing-up time with her grandparents. Oscar walked Ruth down the aisle when we married. Alley Spring is both Ruths favorite place in Missouri. It’s pictured above thanks to millpictures.com that, unlike me, had the good sense to photograph it in the summer. Twelve miles east of town is Blue Spring, which Native Americans poetically called Spring of the Summer Sky according to Missouri, this State’s official Travel Guide.
Like Eminence, Winona looked pretty much as it had when Ruth & I, newly married, visited the area often. The stretch of Highway 19 south of Winona is still very much like an old-fashioned roller coaster, as in landing strip straight but with one thrilling dip after another. I loved it. Ruth was glad when it ended.
When Tom, married to Ruth’s cousin Margie, heard that we had driven a road that he goes out of his way to avoid, he told me about the Missouri’s Department of Conservation’s relatively new program. In 2011, an Elk Restoration Zone covering 346 square miles and centered near Winona was established. Those who are interested in viewing elk, there’s a self-guided driving tour at Peck Ranch. To learn more about these new residents, access MissouriConservation.org or call 855-263-2355.