Not far from downtown Columbia, just off the MKT Trail, shouting and laughter erupt from behind trees. Amid the squealing and screaming, the heavy heat of a Monday afternoon is alleviated by a canopy of branches and leaves. The trees part and, like a hidden oasis, a flooded rock quarry appears. A white cliff juts out of the water and bright green foliage frames the haven. Southwest of the intersection of Stewart and Providence roads, a green fence separates the public walkway from the private refuge.
The laughs are the raptures of six young friends cooling off in a watering hole. As they lounge on a floating dock, vault off a diving board or swing on a rope Tarzan-style, it takes every ounce of will not to jump in and join them.
Kit Godfrey, 13, likes it here because it is quieter than a public pool and offers more to do. Trevor Masters plans on celebrating the last day of the school year by swimming in the cool waters.
Originally, the quarry was the excavation site for the limestone for MU’s “white” campus, according to former Columbia resident and frequent visitor to the watering hole John Gehrky. When the quarry was flooded by underground springs, it was left as a place of recreation and relaxation run by the Quarry Heights Neighborhood Association, Gehry said.
Now living in Des Moines, Iowa, Gehrky grew up in the neighborhood. His father, a chemistry professor at MU, was one of the first to move into the neighborhood on Edgewood Avenue in 1949. Now, Gehrky brings his daughters, Ella, 10, and Maddie, 9, to visit the summer escape. On Monday, he tossed a tennis ball to the girls, who jumped off the diving board to catch it.