Several Fort Leonard Wood units, including the Air Force, worked together to repair flood damage to the bank of the Big Piney River that contains the only access road leading to the Stone Mill Spring recreation area.

Flooding in August of 2013 caused damage to the riverbank that contains the 1/3-mile gravel footpath.

However, since that time, the Big Piney River has been at or above flood stage approximately 14 additional times, the latest and highest level occurring this past December and worsened the erosion, according to Daphne Kampinga, Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch.

"The damaged area is located on federal lands, which meant all work had to be permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," Kampinga said. "That meant certain stipulations and best management practices had to be included and followed in the design and execution of the work."

She added that is the reason for the length of time required from the time of damage to the actual repair work.

"High flood water eroded an approximately 40-feet-long, 10-feet-wide and 12-feet-deep section of the bank," Kampinga said. "Shoreline stability was affected along the Big Piney River road that leads to Stone Mill Spring.

"The damage destabilized the only way in and out of the recreation area that made it difficult for maintenance and (fish) stocking trucks to access the area. Eventually, even foot traffic could have been affected if the damaged area had continued to deteriorate."

Kampinga said the project was a team effort that began with the 156th Engineer Detachment (Survey and Design) of the 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade conducting the pre-construction survey in 2014. The 4th MEB and its units inactivated in June of 2015.

The rock quarry, located in Training Area 256, provided the nearly 100 tons of rocks required for the repair. Engineers blasting the rock are assigned to the 554th Engineer Battalion of the 1st Engineer Brigade.

Heavy equipment and pavement technicians of the Air Force Detachment 1, 364th Training Squadron, stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, transported rocks and performed the repairs.

"It feels good to help the Army and the community. Plus, as an equipment operator, this helps keep my skill set honed and intact," said Air Force Staff Sgt. John Hedges, heavy equipment and pavements instructor.

"As an instructor, you typically lose a little, as you don't have that chance to operate (equipment). With this project, it is our chance to operate and get back in the mind-set of being an operator and engineer," added Hedges, who operated a loader and backhoe.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Norman Anderson, heavy equipment operator and pavements instructor, said working with the Army was awesome. "At a normal Air Force installation, you don't get joint-service taskings. Being stationed at an Army installation, it's nice to see the two services coming together on this project of refurbishing the river bank."

Anderson drove the dump truck that had to be backed nearly a half mile to the repair location. Because the bridge over the river has a 13-ton weight limit, rock had to be hauled from the quarry, placed before the bridge, carried across in small amounts, and then trucked to the repair location.

The Air Force completed their operation in about four days, according to Kampinga, who added the Air Force would continue to monitor the work for rock movement and make necessary repairs.

"They executed the entire project, and the end result was fantastic," Kampinga said. "They really stepped up to help complete this undertaking. We couldn't be happier with the professional level of work that was done. Now that the bank and the adjacent road have been stabilized once again, fishing and recreation opportunities can continue."

Stone Mill Spring is located adjacent to Fort Leonard Wood in the Mark Twain National Forest.

It is the largest spring in the Big Piney watershed and the third largest in the entire Gasconade basin.

Native Americans used Stone Mill Spring for at least 10,000 years, including people from the Archaic, Woodland and Osage periods and cultures, according to historical records.

Settlers of European descent moved into the area in the 1830's. An old map indicates that a "Stone and Smith Mill" existed at the spring prior to 1860. However, it was abandoned sometime before 1920.

In 1940, the federal government established Fort Leonard Wood as a U.S. Army basic training center and acquired Stone Mill Spring and 71,000 nearby acres. The spring is now part of the Mark Twain National Forest.

Today, from angling to bird watching, Stone Mill Spring offers plenty of recreational opportunities for those who want to get out of the house. In addition to fishing, Stone Mill Spring offers nature lovers a place to go hiking and bird watchers the opportunity to see migratory birds and bald eagles.

The recreational area, complete with picnic tables, barbecue grills, trash receptacles and vault toilets, offers Families an excellent destination to enjoy a day of picnicking. There is plenty of room to throw a flying disk and the beauty of this natural gem creates a playful backdrop for photos.

To reach Stone Mill Spring, take FLW 26 past the Piney Valley Golf Course, turn right on the gravel road; follow the road until you get to the parking lot.

The rest of the route to the spring is only accessible on foot. For rules, regulations and a trout- stocking schedule visit www.wood.army.mil/newweb/garrison/fishing.html.