Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Ozark National Scenic Riverways
P.O. Box 490
Van Buren, MO 63965
The Jacks Fork
Ozark National Scenic Riverways is at its wildest and scenic best on the Jacks Fork from the Mo. 17 bridge crossing to Alley Spring. The Jacks Fork can be floated year-round if you have learned to “read” the water currents and are prepared to sacrifice some aluminum from your canoe to the underlying rocks. But spring is the best time of year to float for the water is up. There are only a few thin shoals where you will have to step out and lead your canoe; you can’t portage.
Buck Hollow is the favored access for a long, fast one-day float trio or a lazy two-day trip to Alley Spring. For a shorter trip, intermediate putins/takeouts are available at Ebb and Flow Spring, Bay Creek, Alley Spring, and Eminence.
Average floating time in hours from BUCK HOLLOW:
- Blue Spring – 1 hour
- Ebb and Flow Spring – 3 hours
- Bay Creek – 6 hours
- Alley Spring – 8 hours
- Eminence, Mo. – 10 hours
- Two Rivers – 13 hours
Here is a sample of the treasures along the float.
BLUE SPRING In the bare-rock cliff on the left is Hospital Cave. Here at various times during the Civil War both Northern and Southern soldiers were given care. Just downstream, Blue Spring flows from a cave through rocks strewn at the base of the cliff.
BAPTIZING HOLE The old road that wound back and forth across fords in the river for many kilometers seemed to pause at this wide bank and invite the community to basket dinners and camping r creation. Church groups often gathered for services at Baptizing Hole.
MUCK 40 HOLE Here’s the place where Ozarkers tell the story of John “Muck” Reece. It seems Reece and some friends were fishing one night wit gigs for yellow suckers by the light from pine knots burning on clay mud in the middle of their John Boat. As he struck for a fish, Muck lost his footing and fell over board. When he finally came up sputtering, he claimed he had sunk for 40 “foot.” His friends teased him about it for years.
JAM UP CAVE Following the path about half way up the bluff you will find the entrance to this long cave. From here you can see a falls and pool inside the cave.
MEETING HOUSE CAVE The Civil War broke out just when it could be said that newcomers from the east had fairly settled the Ozark Mountain region. Farms were neglected and homesteads destroyed as guerrilla bands marauded through the region from 1862 to 1865. When it was over, a large part of the population had scatter . According to legend, this cave was used as a hideout by both sides during the war.
EBB AND FLOW SPRING The spring on the left is attractive during “flow,” but may be only a trickle during “ebb.” The intervals are very irregular and not well understood, except that they probably bear some relation to local precipitation and its effect on the water table below ground. What’s your theory?
RYMERS Access here is off county highway M at the site of an old resort.
BUNKER HILL RANCH No access please respect the private property rights of the Missouri State Teachers Association.
CHALK BLUFF This long, high bluff comes into view at t e beginning of a sharp left bend in the river after you pass Still House Hollow. Chalky limestone and dolomite, which make up most of the other river bluffs, are the most resistant forms of limestone, but for different reasons. Dolomite is hard enough to withstand erosion, while the chalk is so soft and porous that water immediately penetrates through it with hardly any erosive effect.
LEATHERWOOD CREEK This is just one place along the river where you can pause and see a wide variety of Ozark flora. Species characteristic of the Appalachians far to the east grow on the cliff bluffs and ridges. Southern plant varieties are found in the low marshes d near potholes Even the plants f the arid West have their place in the Ozark woods, a botanical mix at the temperate center of the continent.
BEE BLUFF Homes of honey bees can sometimes be seen in the holes high in Bee Bluff’s uneven face.
BAY CREEK Now you pick up the access road (from Mo. 106) that follows the north bank of the river. Campsites continue down to Bay Creek.
FISH TRAP HOLE Ozark Mountain streams are among the best in Missouri for fishing. Smallmouth and large-mouth bass, rock bass, and walleye are some of the 93 known species of fish that swim the Jacks Fork and the Current Rivers. Any of the fishing holes far too numerous to count might yield proof of the Ozark’s reputation. A favorite spot is here in the deepening river after a sharp right turn through Grandma Rocks.
ALLEY SPRING Just after the bridge, get out and walk a short way up the spring branch. There at the base of a high concave cliff, Alley Spring gushes forth 307 million liters (81 million gallons) of water daily. The spring, among the four largest on the Riverways still supplies power for Red Mill. When the mill is open, visitors are invited inside to see demonstrations of the ingeniously contrived machinery of the 1890s. The reconstructed one-room schoolhouse nearby is open in season.
EMINENCE, MO . Access is at the Mo. 19 bridge in Eminence.
LITTLE SHAWNEE CREEK The camping area is on the flat near this tributary. The campground just upstream on the same side is private; please respect property rights of landowners.
The Current River
The Current float starts at Montauk State Park off Highway 119. Come with plenty of provisions in case the river grabs your excitement and won’t let go!. Its 38 hours down to Gooseneck. There are plenty of takeouts along the way, but if you’ve got the time, enjoy the whole journey.
Average floating time in hours from INMAN HOLLOW to:
- Cedargrove – 3 hours
- Akers – 5 hours
- PuIltite – 9 hours
- Round Spring – 12 hours
- Jerktail Landing – 17 hours
- Two Rivers – 19 hours
Average floating time in hours from TWO RIVERS to:
- Owls Bend – 2 1/2 hours
- Beal Landing – 6 hours
- Paint Rock Bluff – 7 hours
- Van Buren, Mo. – 12 hours
- Big Spring – 131/2 hours
- Cataract Landing – 17 hours
- Gooseneck – 19 hours
MONTAUK STATE PARK Montauk Springs and Pigeon Creek flow together to form the headwaters of the Current River. Canoe launching is not allowed in the State park.
INMAN HOLLOW The fastest section of the Current River is from here to Welch Spring. Newcomers to the Ozarks in the early 19th century brought animal hides to this point for processing into leather. The hides were soaked in a “tan-vat” filled with tannic acid derived from tree bark. Then they were submerged in the deep river basin here, still known as Tan Vat Hole.
THE “S” TURN Just before Cedargrove, the canoeist has to tight through a series of turns and swirls in a river of white water. Look back upriver; aren’t you amazed you made it?
CEDARGROVE In the early days, people mingled about the gristmill exchanging news as they waited for the miller to grind their “turn” of grain into meal. Other services sprang up near the mill and that’s how Cedargrove, one of the earliest villages in this part of the Ozarks, got its start. Then, roads built on the ridge tops drew traffic away from the hollows and bottomlands, and most small river communities like Cedargrove were abandoned by the mid 20th century. All boats have to be portaged around the low-water bridge at Cedargrove.
WELCH SPRING Thomas Welch, the first pioneer to settle here, built a general store and a gristmill beside this spring. Much later an Illinois doctor built a two-story sanatorium for asthma sufferers on the bluff above Welch Cave. Cool mineral airs wafted up into the rooms from a tunnel connected to the cave. The results of “the cure” are not known, but plans to turn the town into a health resort never materialized.
AKERS This access point at the Akers ferry crossing is a favorite with floaters. If starting a float trip, read the SAFETY checklist (other side) and check with the ranger for river conditions.
CAVE SPRING Floaters are halfway between Akers and Pulltite. The cave is big enough to paddle a canoe inside for about 30 meters (100 feet).
ROCK HOUSE CAVE Right below the cave, the river is very deep and filled with fish. Try dropping a line in Big Solution Hole.
TROUBLESOME HOLLOW The narrow gauge logging trains crossed Sheney Bridge from the bottomland on the right to the mouth of Troublesome Hollow. The rails were fastened to bedrock in the river. Bushwhackers trouble the settlers in this hollow long enough to give it its name.
PULLTlTE The spring and cabin are lust downstream from Pulltite campground. In the old days, farmers drove their wagon team/down the steep west bank to get to the mill near the spring. Drawing a fresh load of meal back uphill, the horses stretched their harnesses to the snapping point. It was a “tight pull.” The average daily spring flow is 144 million liters (38 million gallons). Just downriver is Fire hydrant spring.
BOYDS CREEK Floaters should be careful maneuvering- through the old railway bridge pilings across the river at Boyds Creek. The West Eminence lumber mills were once among the largest in the Ozarks.
MERRITT ROCK CAVE Merritt Rock, or Little Gem, Cave is at the base of the upstream end of a long bluff. Inside is an ebb and flow spring. CAUTION check with a ranger before going inside the cave. Read the SAFETY checklist. Straight ahead downriver on a high hill is the Shannondale fire tower.
WAGON TRACE After passing Sinking Creek, a major tributary from m the east, floaters should watch the opposite bank for signs of the old wagon trace. It appears as a level, treeshaded lane along the river. The early hill people often traveled this road to towns and mills up and down the river. Beginning at the Current River headwaters near Montauk Springs, the road switched back and forth across the stream all the way to Round Spring. A heavy overgrowth has obliterated most of it.
ROUND SPRING A CAVE The waters of Round Spring rise into a deep, blue basin, then pass beneath a low natural bridge. The flow disgorges an average of 98 million liters (26 million gallons) daily. The cave, a short way up the valley, is representative of many throughout the Ozarks. Guided tours by lantern light take about 2 hours.
WHITE OAK FOREST Unusually thick stands of aged burr oaks grow along both sides of the river. These broadly branched trees, characterized by whitish bark, somehow escaped the lumberman’s ax. Most trees along the Riverways represent second and third growth mixtures of two forest types–oak and hickory, and oak and pine.
THE CHANGING RIVER The river meanders, carving a new course across a wider floodplain. The banks are deeply eroded, and “old man’s beard,” a greenish gray lichen, hangs from redcedar trees on the cliffs near the mouth of Big Creek.
BEE BLUFF Here the durable qualities of dolomite rock show up in a 60-meter (200-foot) bluff. Eminence dolomite appears frequently along the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, but you won’t find it in other areas of the country.
JERKTAIL LANDING At lust the right moment, mule-skinners cried “jerk tails” and the mules strained extra hard to pull heavy loads of copper and iron ore across the river and up the slick riverbanks. The wagons were loaded at mines on the east side of the river.
TWIN ROCKS A swelling and deepening river sweeps past these huge boulders that long ago broke loose from the bluff overhead. Deep potholes in the river bottom provide security for many fish.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT TRACT This open field is cultivated to provide food and cover for wildlife living near the river and in the surrounding hills. Rodents. song birds, birds of prey, and small fur-bearers thrive in “edge” habitats created near small fields. Ultimately more important to the vigor of riverine wildlife, however, are the smaller forms of animal life that cling to the bottoms of pebbles and dart and flutter across the shallows. Here where land and water meet are the visible beginnings of a long, interlocked food chain on which all life depends
TWO RIVERS The access point is from highway “V,” just below the union of Jacks Fork and the Current River. A short way downstream is an old ferry crossing.
COOT CHUTE The water flows faster in the chute, a narrow course at the foot of Coot Mountain. but novice floaters still find it safe.
MARTIN BLUFF This high bluff parallels the river on the north all the way to the camp sites at Goose Bay Creek.
GOOSE BAY Abruptly diverted left by an outcropping of pinkish granite (rhyolite), the river slows into a large pool. Below Blair Creek on the right is good gravel bar camping.
OWLS BEND Here the Current River sweeps south in a wide arc Barred owls and screech owls perch in the high bluffs. Owls Bend Bridge, Mo. 106. is just upstream from the access point at the Powder Mill ferry along and the old highway.
MOUNTAIN FOLK-LIFE Newfangled ideas catch on slowly in the remoteness of the hills and hollows. It was not too long ago when you could see the blacksmith hard at work fitting and fashioning everything from horseshoes to kitchenware. Sorghum molasses was made right on the farms where the cane was grown. It and cornbread were staples in the Ozark diet. Demonstrations are held on the west side of Booming Shoal Ford-sorghum making from mid-September to the end of October; and backsmithing on weekends throughout summer and fall.
BLUE SPRING The spring waters, shielded from bright sun and skylight by trees and overhanging cliffs, take on a deep blue tint. The unruffled surface conceal daily outpouring of me than 272 million liters (72 million gallons). Follow a short trail to the spring, one of the four largest along the Riverways. 20.
BUTTIN ROCK SCHOOL Children used to go off to one-room schoolhouses like this one only when they could be spared at home. The school .1 kilometer (0.6 mile) from the river is being saved for future restoration.
ROCKY FALLS AREA This popular day-use area off the river can be reached by highway.ANT HOLE
CARDAREVA BLUFF The Current River Valley was the ancestral home of loosely knit bands of Indians. known to settlers as the Osage It is said that a certain Osage chief, Cardareva, is buried atop this mountain
LOG YARD Timber from the top of Log Yard Mountain used to come sliding down a long chute to the “yard,” a deep-water hole in the river by the time it reached the water, much of it had already been hewn by broad-ax into railroad ties. “Tie drives” started here and as far upstream as Montauk, growing to massive proportions before the ties reached the shipping point near Van Buren, Mo
BEAL LANDING The small town of Beal, Mo ,once spread in the flat along the river.
PAINT ROCK BLUFF Streaks of color from oxidized iron have stained the rocky face of this bluff At the bluff’s downstream end is Gravel Spring
A QUIET POOL The banks of the Current grow further apart here and pot-holes in the bottom support a teeming world of underwater life only hinted at on the surface Smallmouth bass, goggle eye, and a variety of small pan fish make sporting targets for the patient angler in late winter, walleye or “Jack Salmon” an be lured from deep holes where they come to rest in the quiet water.
WATERMELON SHOAL floaters should watch for a short section of rough water.CHILTON CREEK
WAYMEYE CHUTE This narrow stretch of rough water is also called Rabbit Chute.MILL CREEK
EASY STREET Despite the fast, choppy water, the ‘tie-rafters” named this stretch for the brief rest they could take while the river ran straight The men rode rafts made up of thousands of floating railroad ties lashed together so they could be controlled as they floated downstream with the current. Heard no more on the river are the whoops of these hearty men as they passed the word hack to the tail end, “Snub-er-down” If the rafts were not snubbed to slow them before a sharp turn or eddy in the river, the front end would plunge underwater and begin breaking up under the weight of the tie rafts rushing down from behind The result was a log lam that could take days to entangle “Tie-rafting” was no easy occupation
WATERCRESS PARK Opposite the U S Forest Service campground is the place loggers called Tie Broom Stretch Cables were strung across the river to stop the floating railroad ties, which were hauled out and loaded on railroad cars
VAN BUREN, MO . U S 60 BRIDGE BIG SPRING No other spring in the Ozarks can match Rig Spring’s flow of nearly 1 billion liters (about 277 million gallons) a day Here a vast network of underground streams disgorge their cool, crystal-clear load at a single outlet.
COLEMAN’S FAILURE CHUTE
HICKORY LANDING CAVE SPRING This cold water spring, where old-timers operated a whisky still, is about 1 6 kilometer (1 mile) up the branch.
PANTHER SPRING The spring Issues from a cave near the river’s edge Fishing in the rough water is excellent.
KELLEY BLUFF Below the bluff, an early settler named Kelley ran a trading post.
PHILLIPS BAY Cold water from Twin Spring keeps the water temperature in the below normal
GOOSENECK Those continuing downstream 39 kilometers (24 miles) to Doniphan should plan on a floating time of 10-12 hours.