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7 Things To Do In Eminence, Missouri

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Wild white horses in missouri
Photo taken by Gene Rodgers

For years I have been hearing that my father-in-law's favorite place to go during the fall is Eminence, Missouri. Finally, this past October, I got to see why.

Eminence is located in the southern portion of the state, about halfway between Springfield and the bootheel, so it's no wonder it's gorgeous in the fall. If you're not familiar with Missouri, the southern portion of Missouri is called the Ozarks, which is named for the Ozark Mountains, a heavily forested group of highlands. In autumn, I'm sure these trees could give New England a run for its money.

Because of the beauty of the environment and because many of the activities in Eminence are more about seeing (and taking photos) rather than doing, fall is the perfect time to visit. However, that's not to say you shouldn't go there at another time of the year. For example, the river there would be best to float in the summer so you can enjoy the water and aren't freezing cold if you fall in. And I'm sure if you went to Eminence in the spring, you'd get to see a lot of the beautiful nature awakening. Even in the winter, some snowy or icy photos of many of the main attractions could become your cover photo on Facebook.

fall leaves in Eminence Missouri
Photo taken by Gene Rodgers

There are certain places and activities in Eminence that are simply quiet, serene; some are even magical. The town isn't much, but if you're set on getting out of your hometown for a weekend and going somewhere in Missouri where nature is the main event, Eminence is the place to be.

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Water At alley springs mill in eminence
Photo taken by Gene Rodgers
Know Before You Go

Although navigating any new place can be tricky at first when traveling, it can be especially difficult when your destination is out in the middle of nowhere. And this is why this section is so important. You need a heads up about some of the quirks of Eminence.

  • There's virtually no cell service in the area. But if you're in desperate need of some, you can find a few spots in town that have it or you'll also get okay signal at the Echo Bluff State Park Lodge. To get where you need to go, here's a tip: Start your GPS before you leave a place with service or at least know how to get to the town and then you can get some service there or ask a local where to go.

  • The roads are all winding ones. And this is why it takes some time to get from place to place even though they might be short distances. If someone in your party gets car sick, definitely make sure they bring something to mitigate this or if they're able to drive, let them drive.

  • There are limited food options. This is true in all facets: restaurants and groceries. Remember that you're going out in the boonies, so you won't find any fancy dining. In fact, visitors are lucky there are some diners and small restaurants at all. If you're worried you won't find the food you want or must have for your trip, I suggest bringing groceries and then going out to eat or grabbing more groceries when needed.

  • The locals love to chat! This could be a good or bad thing, depending on who you ask. I think it's great! Particularly because they're very helpful if you ask them questions about the area. For example, everyone was willing to let us know where we might see the wild horses, and some gave suggestions about other things we could do while visiting.

cabins in eminence missouri

The Best Things To Do In Eminence

1. Stay at the Echo Bluff State Park Lodge.

For a more "luxurious" time in Eminence, reserve lodging at Echo Bluff State Park. You have several options there: the lodge (which is like a hotel), a cabin, or a commercial cabin. Particularly if you have a large group, the cabins might be your best option. (The "commercial" cabin we were in had four beds. I believe three of them were queens and one was a king.)

There are a few additional benefits if you stay at the state park. One of them is simply the lodge. Not only does it provide accommodation, but there's also a restaurant inside called Creekside Grill, which serves a breakfast buffet on certain days and lunch and dinner daily. Additionally, it has a long porch where you can relax and enjoy the scenery. And if you've forgotten a necessity or need some snacks, Sinkin' Creek Mercantile (which is on the first floor of the lodge) is your one-stop shop.

A second reason to stay at the state park is that it's a great place to enjoy the nature of Eminence. Sinking Creek is located right behind the lodge, so you can have some fun in the water whenever you feel like it, and I believe there are some hiking trails nearby. The hotel's workers also let us know that one of the groups of wild horses often likes to graze by the lodge in the mornings and evenings. (IMO, that could be the only reason you need to stay here!)

Although you're basically guaranteed a much more comfortable stay at Echo Bluff State Park Lodge than at other places, it is one of the priciest accommodations in Eminence. That said, there are cheaper options in the area, too, like motels, other cabins, Airbnbs, and bed and breakfasts. There are also various camping areas if you have your own camper or camping gear.

*Just Something Extra: There's actually a scenic overlook on your way from the town of Eminence to the Echo Bluff State Park Lodge. And because of the curvy roads, you could easily miss it, so be watchful and drive slowly if you'd like to stop and take some photos there.

Alley Spring and Mill

2. Visit Alley Spring and Mill.

This is by far the main attraction in Eminence. In fact, you've likely seen it in a picture on a calendar or a coaster or in a business office. And for good reason! It's not every day you see a big red mill with its wheel sitting over flowing, vivid turquoise water.

Alley Spring is one of the biggest fresh water springs in Missouri. As a fun fact, 81 million gallons of water come from this spring every day. And if you're wondering why the water is so blue, the culprit would be dissolved dolomite bedstone.

The mill was built in the 1890s, replacing an earlier mill, but is no longer operational. At the time, it processed wheat flour, though corn was the main crop. You can learn more about the structure at this National Park Service site as well as while you're physically there. Around the back of the mill, you'll find a plaque with some information, and if you visit at some point between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the mill will be open for you to go inside it where you'll find a museum and gift shop.

Alley Spring and Mill is now a part of a state park, though it used to be a prime spot for the community. You can still take a look at an old one-room school house on your walk from the parking lot to the spring, though. Now, you can also walk over a bridge and all the way around the mill for a 360 view and also go on a 1.7-mile hike.

Wild Horses in Eminence
Photo taken by Gene Rodgers

3. Look for the herds of wild horses.

In 1992, the Missouri Wild Horse League was created. Its mission? To protect the wild horses that roam Shannon County. I know what you're thinking. Wow, who knew Missouri had wild horses! And I'm pretty sure that's what everyone thinks when they hear about them. It just seems like a cool thing that Missouri definitely wouldn't have.

There are about four herds that move around the area. Better still, these horses are mostly white with just a few being dappled gray, so they seem even more magical. (At least those of us who love The Lord of the Rings are all excited that there are a bunch of Shadowfaxes walking around.)

Even though they're wild, they're not really frightened of humans. This is likely because they see them a lot since us humans are constantly seeking them out. You can actually walk very close to them (quietly and slowly) if you feel comfortable. That said, you should always be respectful of these animals and their space. And please don't try to scare them off. That's just not appropriate, and there are likely other visitors wanting to see and take photos of them, too.

Where To Find Them: I was so excited about these beautiful beasts before I got to Eminence but then began to worry that I wouldn't see any of them because, obviously, they're wild and can go anywhere. The good news is, there are some main spots they like to graze. And lucky for me, we found one of the herds in one of those areas when we stopped by it: Shawnee Creek Horse Camp and RV Park. Just before you pull into the roundabout RV area, you'll see a big field on the right where the horses will hang out.

Some of the other places that locals say the herds like to go to are around the Echo Bluffs State Park Lodge, the Broadfoot fields north of Eminence or in the fields above Two Rivers on Highway V east of Eminence. If you need help getting to these places, feel free to call the Missouri Wild Horses League at 573-226-3492 or 573-226-3339.

canoeing and kayaking in eminence

4. Go floating down the Current River.

The Current River/Jacks Fork River winds through Eminence and actually made for the prettiest float I've ever been on in Missouri. The river is wide, which allows for plenty of space when you meet other floaters. The water is blue — the coloring is from its mineral content — and clear, which is beautiful in the fall and would be perfect for a swim in the summer. Although most of the float the water is calm, you will run into several spots with quick turns and rapids, so come prepared to get wet if you're not in a raft and be very careful.

As far as options go for your float trip, you can rent a kayak, canoe or raft. There are also multiple rental places you can choose from, so start at this Eminence site and then do some research to decide which one is best for your wallet and itinerary. (We went with Harvey's Alley Spring Canoe Rental. Our kayaks and canoe were in great shape, but the drive over was a little interesting due to the old van we were in and some other things.

And if you've never been floating before, be sure to check out this blog post for a quick rundown.

Rocky Falls Eminence Missouri

5. Have a picnic at Rocky Falls.

Rocky Falls, or Rocky Falls Shut-In, is a waterfall that interrupts Rocky Creek. But more descriptively, it is water cascading down rocks made of rhyolite porphyry for 40 feet that then falls into a pool below. On one side of the pool, you'll find an expansive rocky bank, the perfect place to settle down for a meal and take photos.

How To Get There: You should be able to get to Rocky Falls via GPS, but once you get there, you have two options. You can park at the "lot" where there are bathrooms, picnic tables, grills and a direct walk to the bottom of the falls. OR, you can drive a little bit further (over a stream of water) and park at the end of the road where you can walk a short trail, which leads to the top of the waterfall. Really, you can get to the top or bottom of the waterfall no matter where you park if you don't mind walking through the forest and climbing over some rocks, but my suggestion would be to park down below so that you have everything all in one place and you don't have to chance going over any water, especially if your car is low to the ground.

*Just a note: How incredible the waterfall looks does depend on rainfall. This past summer, for example, Missouri was in a draught, so our waterfall view in the fall wasn't very epic.

Klepzig Mill Eminence Missouri

6. Learn about the Klepzig Mill.

After turning off the curvy Eminence roads, a drive down a bouncy gravel path (that has plenty of holes and large rocks) surrounded by forest will lead you to a run-down sawmill along the bank of Rocky Creek. It's called Klepzig Mill, named after Walter Klepzig, the man who built it in 1928. The sawmill is open to visitors at all times. You can look inside as well as read about the good deeds Walter Klepzig performed for his community on a plaque.

Viewing the mill won't take you any time at all, but what might grab your attention for a while is the creek. There are large rocks throughout it, which create some small waterfalls, and it's a lot of fun climbing on them just to climb or also to get a gorgeous shot of the mill and the creek.

fall trees in eminence

7. Walk the hiking trails.

There are trails near almost every attraction in Eminence. Unfortunately, if you look up "Eminence, Missouri" in AllTrails, the app will only come up with two, and one of them is mostly just a float trip option, which is not helpful. So, I've compiled a list of the hikes I've found near the area, from shortest to longest, and will continue adding to it.

If you use AllTrails, these hikes will be under the following names:

Horseback riding is another popular activity that you can do on some of the trails in Eminence. So check out that option if it interests you.



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