Van Buren, MO

The Big Spring Historic District nestled in Carter County, Missouri is also a national historic district

CJ Coombs
Big Spring Lodge at the Big Spring Historic District, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri.National Park Service, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
The conservation of Big Spring, one of the largest springs in America, and the surrounding 3,966 acre cultural landscape in Ozark National Scenic Riverways continues to support recreational use and public enjoyment. (Source.)

Located in Van Buren, Missouri is the Big Spring Historic District which is also a national historic district. It's nestled in Carter County. Typically, there are buildings in a historic district that contribute to the district as a whole. The Big Spring Historic District includes 26 buildings, one contributing site, and a contributing structure in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The district includes the following: rental cabins, a museum, a dining lodge, a ranger station, and a shelter house, to name a few.

In the law regulating historic districts in the United States, a contributing property or contributing resource is any building, object, or structure that adds to the historical integrity or architectural qualities that make the historic district significant. (Source.)

In 1981, the Big Spring Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It's located in southeast Missouri containing steep slopes and valleys. To the west and southwest is the Mark Twain National Forest.

Big Spring Historic District is in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and on the west bank of the Current River.

The Big Spring is sometimes called America's biggest spring. In reality there are three contenders for that title: Big Spring, Idaho's Snake River Spring Complex and Florida's Silver Spring. Since the flow from springs varies with local rainfall, any of these three might be biggest on any given day depending on the weather in Missouri, Idaho and Florida! The truth is they are all about the same size. (Source.)

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, there is a daily discharge of 276 million gallons on average. That is a lot of water. No wonder it's called Big Spring.

The Big Spring Historic District was a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Today it has many of the original stone structures the CCC built years ago. (Source.)


A rehabilitation project was set to begin in the summer of 2022 to restore and improve the Big Spring Historic District's historic structures. This would include the dining lodge, cabins, and museum building. The mechanical, electrical, or plumbing systems will need to be replaced or repaired. Water drainage issues will be addressed. Retaining walls would be addressed and stabilized. There are many items to be addressed.

The Big Spring boat dock will be replaced with materials compatible with the historic district, and an accessible route will connect it to the lodge area. (Source.)

With all the restoration and rehabilitation, this will help to bring the historic district back to life. The original construction of the Big Spring Lodge and Cabins commenced in 1933. This was after the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) organized a camp at Big Spring State Park. In 1937, roads were also being built and the land was being cleared for people who like to camp and picnic.

Click here for information about updates and closures due to renovations.

Thanks for reading!

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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