I’m not going to say that I’ve found all the picturesque mills in Missouri. This type of misplaced certainty just guarantees that tomorrow someone will drop a comment into this post asking, “What about XYZ Mill in Tightwad, Missouri?” Yes, there is such a place – it’s between Warsaw and Alberta (I’m not kidding) and no, there’s not a mill there. Then I’ll have to go traipsing off into the Ozarks (again). I’ll be forced to drive down beautiful back roads and detour for a hike, to find the mill I’ve missed – oh, the hardships I encounter being a travel photographer!
What I will say is that this post explores many of the major mills in Missouri and a few of the minor ones.
Cedar Hill Mill
I’ll start with Cedar Hill Mill. Not because it’s a major mill, but because I’m writing this post sitting in my car looking at the mill. I’m waiting for the rain to let up since I plan to walk out past the DANGER sign to get a better picture. The Danger sign is to alert me that the walkway or road that used to cross the Big River was washed out in one of the many floods we’ve had in this area.
I recognized the mill even without the paddle wheel that’s usually a dead giveaway. The mill building is open, but there’s not much to see. The better views are from the park across the river.
There are quite a few mills like Cedar Hill in Missouri. They’re not really maintained, but they’re still standing and you can see the history behind them. Some are more picturesque than others.
A few like Byrnes Mill just hint at a mill. You really have to know the history of that pile of rocks.
But other mills are in much better shape and provide opportunities for both photos and in some cases an educational experience. I’ll focus on these.
Dillard Mill may be one of the most famous of the mills in Missouri. It sits in the middle of Mark Twain National Forest not too far off of I-44. Head south on Hwy 19 at Cuba – really, I’m not making up these Missouri place names!
There’s a lovely pond and park and even a little museum inside the mill with tours from May to October.
There are close-up photos to be had of the mill, but really only one place to get a good landscape view that includes the mill – from the far side of the pond. There is a rough trail that leads down to the pond, it’s not far. The trail doesn’t lead all the way around the pond so you’ll have to go back up to join the main walkway to get to the mill itself.
Unfortunately, the mill is closed for most of the year at the best times for photographing – sunrise and sunset. They lock the parking lot gate, so don’t leave your car in there after hours. Special permission is needed to be on the grounds after hours. Through a friend, I was able to get permission to photograph the Milky Way. I will say it’s a bit spooky on the grounds at night! There are farms nearby, but I still caught quite a fright when I looked up to see three pairs of eyes watching me even if they did turn out to belong to resident deer. There are bears in them’ thar’ hills!
My personal favorite amongst the mills is Alley Mill. Follow Hwy 19 south and hang a right at Eminence, Missouri. I’m just going to stop for a minute and give Hwy 19 a shout out – it’s my favorite highway in Missouri!
Like Dillard, the Alley Mill houses a museum, has a beautiful pond and parkland and has some lovely walks. I find more opportunities for great photo ops at Alley. There’s even a path up that leads up for views onto the mill below.
You may recognize this mill from the quarter coin featuring the Ozarks and every other jigsaw puzzle.
There is a campground across the way and a pavilion with electricity so this is a great stop for an afternoon or camping trip. Unfortunately, this mill was hit pretty hard in the floods of 2017. There are some parts of the river still not accessible a year later and the campground is closed. This very picturesque bridge washed away in the floods, but the mill itself, though is still standing strong!
Nearby is Klepzig Mill, which is good for a nice photo if you can find it. Turn left rather than right off of Hwy 19 at Eminence and you’re on your way to Klepzig Mill. Hint: Follow the signs to Rocky Falls Shut-in and keep going.
By all means stop at Rocky Falls. There are nice waterfalls to photograph at this shut-in. Climb on the rocks and take a swim in the pond. Once you’ve dried off, get back on the road and eventually a tiny sign will send you down a suspect dirt road towards Klepzig Mill. Don’t try this this road in high water!
You’ll know the mill when you get there – or maybe not – keep a look out for the top of the roof on your right and a tiny parking spot on your left. Since you’ve found the mill, you can go inside, though there’s not much to see.
The best photo is from the river. Walk out onto the distinctive pink rocks of Rocky Creek for a view back onto this tiny mill.
One of the wild horse herds is rumored to be based around Klepzig Mill. I’ve never seen them here, though there are a lot of places they could be.
Falling Spring Mill
Falling Spring Mill is also a favorite of mine. It’s a little tricky to find, but not quite as difficult as Klepzig. Head south on Hwy 19 from Eminence. There will be a sign for Rt. 4227 and it’s just the passed the spooky cemetery. I scouted this mill at dusk and had to drive back to my campsite in the dark – whoa ghost alert!
The drive is worth it though as this mill is charming and I spent a lovely morning completely by myself photographing this mill, the cliffs and pond around the mill and taking a nice walk.
Falling Spring Mill has its wheel and it is open to go inside for a closer look. Also, in the spring there is a waterfall or two coming out of the cliffs behind the mill.
It’s time to get off of Hwy 19, though there are plenty of other sites to see along the route, Round Springs, Echo Park, Greer Springs. It looks like I’ll need to devote a special posting just about this highway!
Southwest of Eminence, getting near the Arkansas boarder, is Hodgson Mill.
I’ve skipped over Dawt Mill and you should too. It seems like they’re trying for Ozark Disney – and I suppose that’s ok if that’s what you’re looking for. The place looks nothing like the old photos I’ve seen online. I think there may have been a mill behind all that stuff, but I can’t be sure.
Hodgson Mill (no relation to the company that makes flour and the like) once housed a craft store, but my information- from the caretaker mowing the parkland around the mill – was that the shop was permanently closed. I was a bit bummed at not being able to go inside, but there’s a nice little waterfall and stream to photograph.
In a completely different part of the state is Bollinger Mill. Head south out of St. Louis on I-55.
Next to the mill is one of the state’s four covered bridges so if you’re collecting these as well as mills, this lets you tick both off your list.
I really enjoyed the tour of the museum housed in the mill. The mill is easy to get to and does have walks around into the nearby woods. I didn’t find this mill quite as picturesque as some of the others, but it was worth the trip.
There are still more mills I haven’t yet discussed. Reed Springs Mill is a small, picturesque place along the Black River. As far as I can tell, it exists just as a photo opportunity. I’ve also missed the mill at Montauk State park. I visited in the off-season so I didn’t get the tour. There are also mills at the College of the Ozarks and on Main Street in St. Charles and a bunch of other sites dotted around.
I’m still exploring and there are plenty of places that hint at a history of a mill. I’ll let you know if I find some more!
I’ve started a google map with pins for these mills to help you find them.