Valley Water Mill Park
The Valley Water Mill Park is a microcosm of the Ozarks with streams, springs, a 13-acre lake, caves, sinkholes and diverse types of habitat. Located northeast of Springfield, the park features a 1.5-mile hiking trail around the lake, accessible fishing piers and boardwalk, an outdoor classroom pavilion, water- and stream-side learning stations and offices for the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks.
Valley Water Mill Park is open daily dawn to dusk for fishing, hiking and exploration. The parking lot gate is locked at sundown. Restrooms are in the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks building, on the south side of the park. Because the lake contributes to a drinking water source for Springfield, no swimming, wading or boating is allowed.
The original dam at Valley Water Mill was built in the 1850s to power McCracken Mill, a grist mill. From the dam, the water emptied into the South Dry Sac and immediately went underground resurfacing at Fulbright Spring, which was Springfield’s main water supply in the late 1800s. In 1899 the mill property and lake was sold to a private waterworks company, and a taller dam was built shortly afterwards. In 1957, Valley Water Mill Lake and the surrounding area were purchased by City Utilities of Springfield. The dam has been rebuilt and repaired on several occasions, including as recently as 2008. The 70-acre property became a park in 2006, operated by the Springfield-Greene County Park Board.
Valley Water Mill Park is a great example of community partnership, with multiple organizations collaborating to provide recreation, education and environmental stewardship. City Utilities of Springfield owns the property, and Springfield-Greene County Park Board has a long-term lease for operation of the park. The lake is managed by City Utilities and the Missouri Department of Conservation. The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, whose mission is to sustain and improve water resources in Springfield and Greene County through education and effective management of the region’s watersheds, operates out of the LEED-certified Watershed Center, which opened in Valley Water Mill Park in 2012.
Fishing is a popular activity at the park, and the boardwalks and fishing piers are fully accessible. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocks and monitors fish in the lake, including bass, bluegill and catfish. The best times to fish the lake are late fall and early spring. No boating or wading is allowed. A fishing license is required.
Hikers may explore the 1.5-mile hiking trail around the lake, as well as side trails throughout the park. The trails span a variety of habitats including glades, woods, bluffs and stream beds.
The Springfield Plateau Master Naturalists have catalogued 399 species of plants at the park.