Rockbridge — Once a Mere Mill, Now a Booming Resort
Eighty miles southeast of Springfield, deep in the Ozark Mountains lies a secluded getaway spot that draws people from all over the world. It boasts a river stocked with Rainbow Trout and a restaurant that makes one heck of a cobbler—but the town of Rockbridge, Missouri also has a gem of a past.
What started in 1841 as a settlement of migrants from Kentucky is now a 2,000 acre resort that attracts visitors year round.
Rockbridge Rainbow Trout and Game Ranch is home to some of the best fly fishing in the midwest.
An iconic waterfall flows next to the mill into Spring Creek, not far from the Bryant Creek it meets up with.
The water teems with trout, and a couple of anglers are doing their best to bring one in.
James "Loren" Haden, who’s 85-years-old, grew up just down the road from Rockbridge, but didn't learn about it until later years. He says back in the mid-1900s in this wooded, hilly part of the rustic Ozarks, 10 miles was a long way to go.
"But I knew of Rockbridge later on as a beautiful spot with the Spring coming out down there and the trout fishing and that sort of thing," Haden said.
And for those who are familiar with Rockbridge, it’s just that: a beautiful, tucked-away spot.
Today, Sirena Melton is assistant office manager at the resort.
"Most of our clientele comes from like Saint Louis, Kansas City, stuff like that—but we do have from all over the country people come. as well as all over the world," Melton said.
Melton says in the mid-1800s, it was merely a tiny pioneer community with a mill.
During the Civil War, the mill caught fire and burned down.
In 1868, the mill was rebuilt where it still stands today. The town grew with a post office, a bank, a Masonic lodge, and a blacksmith shop. It became a central gathering place for people in the region.
According to the Missouri University Extension, Rockbridge was originally the county seat of Ozark County, encompassing an area which today is Douglas County.
Later, in the 1940s, the need for the general store, blacksmith, and the mill declined and the town became almost obsolete.
Rockbridge saw a resurgence in 1954 when Lile and Edith Amyx opened a saw mill and a trout hatchery, which eventually led to Rockbridge becoming the getaway it is today.
Serina Melton says the area fell on hard times again briefly in the Spring of 2017, when record flooding hit the region.
“It was the highest any of the family had ever seen it get. The Grist Mill sustained a lot of damage. We had, our stream side lodging - there was several feet of water in it and we lost several hundred thousand trout,” Melton said.
She says the mill, which is now an open air pub, was opened up again for the warm season this year.
Melton says the resort also features horseback riding, hunting, a fish hatchery, and a yearly beekeeping workshop.