Tuesday, August 19, 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 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 river, fish, and vegetation. 

More memories. Floating down the river fishing with my dad. Once he generously attached his favorite lure, a red and white Lazy Ike, to my rod and reel. I felt so honored. It wasn't on my line for an hour before I made a cast right as our little, flat-bottomed, aluminum boat entered a set of rapids. Of course, were talking my luck here, the lure caught on an overhanging tree limb.Spun and wrapped around tight. 
Dad frantically tried to row back against the current all the while trying to jerk the line (and his Lazy Ike) free. 

Let's just say it was one of the only times I ever heard my dad cuss. In penitence, for many years I bought him a red and white Lazy Ike every holiday.

I remembered the times the river flooded. Swollen beyond belief. Getting little peeks of 'the castle' near Redings Mill after the autumn leaves fell to expose it. 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. She listened patiently.

And I realized how glad I was to see people still using the place. Swimming, fishing, and walking along the river, making memories.

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