Mid America's Ozarks region encompasses almost 55,000 sq. miles mostly in Missouri and Arkansas. There are also portions in eastern Oklahoma and the tip of southeast Kansas. A broader definition includes parts of southwestern Illinois which is debated amongst geologists. Regardless, an adventurist can explore countless areas of natural beauty in this land. I can only touch on the subject here. But it should be enough to whet your appetite. Traveling for over 20 years exploring, studying, photographing and writing about the region is only a start for me. I still have many places to experience and capture through the lens and pen.
The Ozarks is an outdoorsman's dream. Clear running streams, picturesque lakes, some of the country's largest springs, thousands of caves and other natural wonders adorn the landscape. Also, the hunting and fishing is world renown. Here are a handful of spots to target on your adventures.
Visit the upper Buffalo River region around Newton County, AR. This area is probably the most isolated and rugged portion of the Ozarks located in northwest Arkansas. Tucked away in the Boston Mountains range, you'll find dramatic landscapes, wild elk and breathtaking waterfalls during the rainy season, plus millions of acres of wilderness and forests. Enjoy a float down the Buffalo River with its 500 ft. tall bluff lines or Sam's Throne with the remarkable vistas and rock climbing opportunities offered here. Hike back to Hawksbill Crag, aka Whitaker Point, in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area. You will also experience an Appalachian culture where the old fashion customs and organic ways of living are the norm.
Another portion of the Ozarks to consider is the White River Valley that extends across most of northern Arkansas and southwest Missouri. The river and lakes located in the White River basin are known for the great recreation including boating, fishing, scuba diving and hunting. Many world records have been recorded in this drainage area for several fish species, including a brown trout over 40 lbs. The scenery here is outstanding and the hundreds of small towns and villages that dot the land add to the mystique.
Ozark County, MO is the real Ozarks as is advertised by the Chamber. There are no stop lights, chain stores or shopping malls. It is the second largest county in the state geographically, yet the smallest population wise, with only 7,000 thousand or so residents in the entire county. Lakes, streams and natural areas dominate. The North Fork River, Norfork and Bull Shoals lakes, Glade Top Trail and Caney Mountain Conservation Area are sites of interest. Don't be surprised to see a black bear or roadrunner, along with a lot of other typical wildlife for this region of the U.S. Ozark County is in south central Missouri on the border with Arkansas.
A must-see is the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in south central Missouri which consist of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers and their tributaries. These are national park and forest lands with pristine, clean, clear-running streams. The Current is the most spring-fed river in the Ozarks and includes the largest cold water spring release in the country and second largest in the world. Big Spring discharges an average of over 276 million gallons of water a day at 58 degrees (brrrr!). The Midwest's only wild horse herd runs free in this region. Folks come from all over to try and get a glimpse of them. Rocky Falls is another great attraction, which is a large waterfall that spills over some of the oldest volcanic rock in the nation. It's also a wonderful playground and swimming hole in the summertime.
Another portion of Missouri Ozarks to see is the St. Francois Mountains in southeast Missouri. Precambrian igneous (volcanic) rocks rising on top of the Ozarks Plateau have created several geological oddities and wonders such as Elephant Rocks. Giant pink granite rocks stacked together and on top of each other, many as large and even much larger than herds of elephants, that can be climbed and explored by tourists. Johnson's Shut-Ins, a gorge carved out by the Black River with a unique rocky landscape and watery playground, is another must-see. Trail hiking is a great way to enjoy this area. The Ozark Trail runs through this section and most other areas in the Missouri Ozarks.
There are many other points of interest in the Ozarks and within the regions highlighted in this blog. Contact Mike McArthy at www.photozarks.com to find out more.
A word of caution: As with any rugged outdoor activities, there are dangers involved. Bears, some mountain lions, poisonous snakes and other possible dangers exist. Entering caves, walking bluff lines, wading and swimming wild streams and deep lakes all pose a risk. Approach these areas with caution and good common sense. Folks get hurt and die every year adventuring the Ozarks. Be prepared when hiking or entering isolated areas such as the wilderness regions. It will help insure a safe, enjoyable trip, with memories for a lifetime.
For more photos of the Ozarks beauty in print go to www.photozarks.com.