Sitting along Missouri’s Current River, the gorgeously abandoned Welch Spring Hospital Ruins once offered healing waters but now simply provides scenic ruin.
Back in 1913, an Illinois doctor named C.H. Diehl bought Missouri’s Welch Spring for just $800. Dr. Diehl believed that the spring water had healing properties and that the cool, pollen free air coming from the adjacent cave would be beneficial for people with asthma, emphysema, and tuberculosis, which were collectively known at the time as “consumption.” He said that it had worked for him, helping him with a chronic case of hay fever. To tap this clean air resource, Dr. Diehl built a hospital over the mouth of the cave. Welch Spring, which flowed from the cave, was dammed up so that water would close off the entrance. This was to force more air out through the cave opening into the hospital. In today’s terms, Diehl’s “hospital” would be better called a “health spa” since there wasn’t much in the way of formal medical treatment, just an invitation to breathe the fresh air of the cave.
Unfortunately for Diehl, access to the area surrounding the Current River was limited to just a few rough dirt roads, and the flood of patients and other guests that were to flock to the site’s healing surroundings never materialized. After the good doctor died in 1940, his family took no interest in keeping the site alive and the sprawling healing complex was abandoned to nature.
The grounds became part of Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Missouri’s largest National Park) in the 1960s. The spring itself is a protected ecosystem and swimming in it is forbidden. A trail leads from the parking area to a viewing area across the spring from the building. The hospital can be accessed either from the river after making friends with a passing boater or by tracing a precarious social trail over the bluff. The cave is closed and gated but the outer building is easily accessed.
The Current River is now a popular location for canoe trips and camping, and the stone ruins of the Welch Spring Hospital are a popular place for visitors to stop for adventure, if not healing.
Know Before You Go
There is not an exact address. It is located between Cedargrove and Akers on the Upper Current. Can also be reached by canoe. When driving go north from Akers on Route K. Turn left on the first gravel road past the Akers Group Camp. There is a sign. At the end of the road, park next to the river and walk a trail north along the river for about a half mile. At the end of the trail you will be able to see the hospital, although you will be across the spring from it.