Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The Falls on Shoal Creek - Joplin MO
As I continue to introduce myself to the other Roses of Prose and our readership, I decided to show you some of my old stomping grounds. Moving back to southwest Missouri after so many years sent me on an odyssey of sorts. One of the first places I had to see was Grand Falls on Shoal Creek.
Here's the history...
Grand Falls is the largest, continuously flowing natural waterfall in Missouri, plunging 25 feet to a solid ledge before flowing further south.
The cascading waters provided the energy for Joplin's first electrical power plant. Constructed on the site in the 1890's, in 1903 Grand Falls Park was further developed and featured a theater, boat houses, a German Village, and a dance pavilion. The Missouri Pacific Railway established a rail spur to the power plant and offered hourly round trip tickets to Joplin's best known tourist attraction.
Today you can only see the remains of one of the power plant's cement walls. It stands abandoned on the west side of the waterfall. The dam itself still stands and spans the entire width of the river right above the natural falls.
Driving along Shoal Creek reminded me of the hours I spent playing, swimming, and floating in its waters. Wonderful memories from my childhood began flooding my mind.
Several times a summer my parents would wake me and my three siblings early on a weekend morning. Sleepily we'd pile into the red and black Rambler station wagon and head to the river. As the sun rose, burning strands of lacy fog off the surface of the water, we kids explored the gravel bar. Rocks were overturned in the hope of spotting a crawdad or two. Every flat stone we found was skipped, the number of hops often hotly debated.
While we enjoyed these simple pleasure, my parents fixed breakfast over a campfire.
Mouthwatering scents of frying bacon and eggs filled the air and overtook the more pungent scents of river water, fish, and vegetation.
At least once each summer my dad would take me on one of his float trips. I loved those floating on the river with him as my captive audience. We'd start before daylight...and that's something else. To this day I've never understood my parents complete obsession with such early starts. Every single vacation, fishing trip, and riverside breakfast started before dawn...but I digress.
On one such fishing trip, Dad generously attached his favorite lure, a red and white Lazy Ike, to my rod and reel. I felt so honored. I began casting like crazy, and I don't think I had the lure on my line for an hour before I got my line tangled in an overhanging tree limb. At that moment our little, flat-bottomed, aluminum boat entered the first of a set of rapids.
I will never forget Dad frantically trying to paddle against the current while at the same time attempting to jerk my line free. Needless to say, he never saw his lucky lure again.
It was one of the only times I ever heard my dad cuss. He said, "dammit" and I was so shocked I couldn't wait to get home and tell on him.
Guilt over losing his lure, however, had me buying him a red and white Lazy Ike every holiday for many years afterwards.
Shoal Creek was an important place for my family. Dad knew all the best swimming holes and precisely where to look to get a peek of 'the castle' near Redings Mill. We always drove down after heavy rains to see how the river had flooded, often swollen beyond belief and completely covering the low water bridge.
Later, as a teenager, my first real boyfriend would take me on picnics along the river bank near Wild Cat Park. We head out to McClelland Park, located on the hillside above the falls to watch Fourth of July fireworks.
Returning to these places as an adult filled me with nostalgia. I had a happy childhood. It pleased me to see the area was still popular. People still using the area to walk or jog, swim, and fish. I'm glad more memories are being made.
This area has always been so special to me that I included several of Shoal Creek's landmarks in my books. The river-walk and Low Water Bridge are featured in IT'S A WONDERFUL UNDEAD LIFE. I describe the river in and its little tributaries in VAMPIRE IN THE SCRYING GLASS, and I mention the falls and revisit the Low Water Bridge in A VAMPIRE TO BE RECKONED WITH.
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Posted by RE Mullins at 12:00 AM