Perhaps the nation’s most unique reminder of the ingenuity of the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the historic millhouse at Juniper Springs is a favorite of history buffs and photographers.
The organization became known by its initials, CCC, and work camps were built across the nation and CCC workers began building a wide array of public facilities that remain in use today. Many state parks and national forest recreation areas were built by CCC workers.
Built around a beautiful second magnitude natural spring, the park features nature trails, a swimming area, picnic facilities and a campground, all originally built by CCC workers. The ingenuity of the program’s workers and leaders is really demonstrated, however, by the remarkable millhouse they built at the springs.
Juniper Springs was an ideal place for a public recreation area, but there was one problem. The site was located miles from the nearest source of electricity and the cost of running lines out through the national forest to the new park was prohibitive. The millions of gallons of water that rush from the springs each day, however, soon sparked an idea for a solution.
As work went forward on the recreation area in 1935-1936, the CCC came up with a plan to generate electricity while enhancing the scenic beauty of the springs.
They built the structure known today as the millhouse or old mill at the foot of the main pool of Juniper Springs. Water flowing from the springs was channeled into a narrow sluice and then allowed to pour back out to its natural configuration.
The rushing water that poured through the sluice turned an undershot waterwheel (so named because the water ran under instead of over the wheel). That wheel, in turn, powered a generator in the millhouse that produced more than enough electricity to meet the needs of the recreation area.
The concept worked like a charm. Not only did the millhouse create electricity, but the log and stone design of the structure added a beautiful touch to the setting of the springs. It because a much loved part of the site.
As interpretive panels at the old mill explain, the power plant was a good example of a 1930s “green energy” project. It generated electricity without destroying the scenic beauty of the springs and without producing pollution of any kind.
The Juniper Springs Millhouse no longer generates electricity, but the structure has been beautifully preserved. The stone wall at the waterwheel end is a beautiful piece of CCC masonry work.
After it passes the millhouse, the water from the springs forms the Juniper Springs Run, one of the top 25 canoe runs in America. Please click here to learn more.