Ozark National Scenic Riverways Named to Endangered Rivers List

Environment Missouri

St. Louis – Today the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, made up of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers and Missouri’s premier national park area, was named to American Rivers’ list of Top Ten Most Endangered Rivers for 2011.

Environment Missouri joined coalition partners from the Friends of Ozark Riverways and American Rivers at a press conference at the Alpine Shop in Kirkwood, MO for the release. 

The Ozark National Scenic Riverways are Missouri’s river gems. The clear, spring-fed Current River and its major tributary, the Jacks Fork, make up the first wild river system in the country to be protected by the National Park Service. The Riverways draw more than 1.3 million visitors each year to float, fish and swim in the rivers and hike and camp in the surrounding woods. These rivers are home to over 200 globally significant species of wildlife and offer an incredible setting for families to reconnect with the outdoors.

“But the Riverways are now plagued by proliferating motor vehicle access trails, largely unregulated and intense commercial equestrian use, torn up trails, and water quality problems,” said Ted Mathys, Advocate with Environment Missouri. “Now is the time for Missourians to come together and urge the National Park Service to turn the Riverways around.” 

In 1984, there were 13 developed river access point and public campgrounds in the park. Today, there are more than 130 vehicular river access areas — roughly one per mile along the Riverways. Commercial equestrian use has also grown exponentially, and remains largely unregulated. There are only four horse trails designated by the park, but more than 250 miles of de facto horse trails exist.

“If the National Park Service doesn’t do a better job of protecting these rivers, everything that makes them special — their clean water and value to paddlers and anglers — will be lost,” said Fay Augustyn, Conservation Associate for American Rivers.

The National Park Service is currently revising the General Management Plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, which will guide the management of the park for the next 20 years.

“We have to do more today to avert the catastrophes of tomorrow,” said Kally Higgins of Friends of Ozark Riverways.

For the last year, Environment Missouri has been reaching out to citizens across the state to raise the profile of the Riverways within the National Park Service.  We’ve spoken to over 10,000 Missourians about this issue, met with National Parks Service director Jonathan Jarvis and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and built a broad coalition of Missourians — from hunters and fishers to recreation outfitters and river advocates — to urge swift action.

“Landing on the national list of Most Endangered Rivers is by no means an accomplishment for the Riverways, but it is a call to action for all Missourians,” said Mathys. 

Citizens can learn more about the resource degradation issues on the Riverways and sign the petition to the National Park Service by visiting Environment Missouri’s website and those of our partners.