DescriptionEncompassing the northeastern corner of Oklahoma, most of northern Arkansas and the majority of southern Missouri, the Ozarks comprise one of the oldest mountain ranges in North America. The hardwood forests that blanket these mountains also conceal approximately 4,000 caves, giving Missouri its well-deserved reputation as the “cave state.”
Immortalized for their exceptional beauty in Harold Bell Wright's novel “The Shepherd of the Hills,” the Ozarks are rich in folklore and tradition. The mountains were settled before the Civil War by Scottish, Irish, French and German mountaineers and homesteaders from Kentucky, Virginia, the Carolinas and Tennessee.
The Ozark National Scenic Riverways embrace portions of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers. Land along both sides of the rivers is protected. Forests, with many varieties of trees, shrubs and wildflowers, cover three-fourths of the riverways. Wildlife is abundant; hunting is permitted in season.
The riverways area is noted for its many springs—more than 300 in all. Big Spring, south of Van Buren on US 60 and then 4 miles east on SR 103, is one of the nation's largest springs. Flowing from a collapsed cave, it emits an average of 286 million gallons of water a day. A three-story historic roller mill, 6 miles west of Eminence via SR 106, is preserved at Alley Spring, one of the riverways' largest springs.
Lantern tours of Round Spring Cavern near Round Spring are offered by park interpreters during the summer. Note: All caves in the park are currently closed to the public due to white nose syndrome, a condition that is harmless to humans but can kill bats. Recreational facilities in the park include camping and picnic areas. Most visitors come to enjoy the float trips on the Current and Jacks Fork rivers and there are several outfitters catering to them; hiking the trails and horseback riding also are very popular.
For information about seasonal interpretive programs, craft demonstrations and other activities phone (573) 323-4236.
Towns in the Ozarks region listed in this book under their own descriptions are Branson, Hermann, Ironton, Jefferson City, Joplin, Osage Beach, Rolla, St. James, Springfield and Warsaw (see place listings).