Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Falls on Shoal Creek - Joplin MO

Moving back to the stomping grounds of my youth has sent me on an odyssey of sorts. This weekend I took a visiting friend to see Shoal Creek. Grand Falls (locally known as simply The Falls) is located in the southern part of Joplin. 
It is the largest, continuously flowing natural waterfall in Missouri, Grand Falls plunges 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.  Missouri Pacific had 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. It brought back to mind some very good memories from my childhood.

I can remember my parents waking my siblings and me up early on a weekend morning. We'd pile sleepily into the car and off we'd head to the river. As the sun rose, burning the strands of lacy fog off the water, we kids explored the rocky, gravel bar. We overturned rocks looking for crawdads, skipped stones, and  waded while my parents fixed breakfast over a campfire.
Mouthwatering scents of bacon and eggs would drift to us over the more pungent scents of rive, fish, and vegetation. 

More memories. Floating down the river while fishing with my dad. Once my dad generously attached his favorite lure, a red and white Lazy Ike, to my rod and reel. I remember feeling so honored. I don't think I had it on my line for an hour before casting right as our little, flat-bottomed, aluminum boat entered a set of rapids. Of course the lure caught on an overhanging tree limb. Dad frantically tried to row against the current while trying to jerk my line free. 
Let's just say it was one of the only times I ever heard my dad cuss and I bought him a red and white Lazy Ike every holiday for many years after.

I remembered different times the river flooded, swollen beyond belief. Getting little peeks of 'the castle' near Redings Mill when the leaves were off the trees. Going on picnics along Shoal Creek with my first real boyfriend. Watching Fourth of July fireworks at McClelland Park, located on the hillside above the falls. 

I laughingly rambled on about these things to my friend. Pointed out different areas as I recalled little anecdotes and she listened patiently.

And I realized how glad I was to see people there swimming, fishing, and walking along the river. I was happy the area was still popular. Still in use. That more memories were being made.

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