Environment Missouri Research and Policy Center
People visit the Ozarks, located in Southern Missouri, to experience the rugged terrain, see the towering limestone bluffs, and canoe in the crystal clear, spring-fed streams. The Ozarks are home to many spectacular waterways, and two of the most beautiful are the majestic Current River and its major tributary Jacks Fork. According to Paleo-Indian artifacts unearthed in the area, humans first visited these rivers over 12,000 years ago. Humans continue to find the Current and Jacks Fork rivers enchanting—over 1.3 million people visited the rivers in 2012 to explore the beauty and natural wonders along the rivers.
In 1964 Congress, recognizing the importance of preserving these river gems, authorized the formation of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR), a national park containing the bulk of the rivers and over 80,000 acres of land. The national park, the first in America established in order to protect a river system, preserves a critically important wildlife habitat, maintains the world-class spring system which makes the Current River the third-largest spring-fed river in the United States, and provides year-round opportunities to experience some of the most beautiful wilderness Missouri has to offer.
Visitors are drawn to the park to fish, boat, swim, and canoe in either the Current or Jacks Fork River, to explore caves like Devil’s Well and Round Spring Caverns, and to hike along the Ozark Trail. The wide array of activities along with the breathtaking views of the river valleys allows individuals to experience Missouri’s nature at its finest moments.
The Citizen’s Guide provides information on the park’s many natural wonders, recreational opportunities and ecological and cultural importance. The guide ends with a list of ways for Missourians to support the park.