News about the Ozark Riverways

Current topics include National Parks Service General Management Plan, Citizen Guide for Commenting on the GMP, NPS public meetings


New schedule for Ozark Riverways' General Management Plan meetings, with the addition of a meeting in Eminence.

Please plan to attend a meeting near you!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Eminence High School New Gym
505 South Sixth Street, Eminence, MO 65466
6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Draft GMP Open House

Friday, January 17, 2014

Salem City Hall Auditorium
202 North Washington, Salem, MO 65560
6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Draft GMP Open House

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Van Buren Youth & Community Center
Intersection of Business 60 & D Highway, Van Buren, MO 63965
6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Draft GMP Open House
8:00 – 9:00 p.m. Wilderness Hearing

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, 11715 Cragwold Road, Kirkwood, MO 63122
6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Draft GMP Open House
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. Wilderness Hearing

December, 11th 2013

After a lengthy delay, the National Park Service (NPS) has published their Draft General Management Plan (GMP) for Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR). It appears to us that many of the long-standing issues have been addressed and that if adopted it could bring significant improvement to the ONSR.

Please click here to find our Citizen Guide for Commenting on the plan, our one-page alert, and the NPS Summary of Key Excerpts from the GMP. We hope you will share this information with others in your organization as well as your neighbors, friends, and family and encourage them all to submit comments about the issue. The Current River is this state’s most important river resource and Missouri’s largest National Park. This is the opportunity we have been waiting for to make a significant difference.

Please attend one of the NPS public meetings, comment on the plan, and encourage as many others as you can to also get involved!

Draft Ozark National Scenic Riverways Plan Draws Charges NPS Is Trying To Limit Access - National Parks Traveler

The General Management Plan meetings have been rescheduled due to the inclement weather and poor road conditions. They will be held January 7th in Van Buren and January 8th in Salem and Kirkwood. Deadline for submitting comments has been changed to February 7, 2014. (Same times as listed below.)

December, 3rd 2013

Draft Riverways Plan Open for Public Comment

The National Park Service (NPS) released its Draft General Management Plan (GMP) for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) for public comment on November 8. The steering committee of Friends of Ozark Riverways (FOR) has reviewed the 512-page document, and we applaud the National Park Service for addressing many of the issues that have been festering at ONSR for years.

Friends of Ozark Riverways understands that communities along the Riverways rely heavily on tourism to support their local economies. We believe a well managed park will help foster the type of visitors who have respect for the natural and cultural heritage of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers.

While all plan alternatives are a step in the right direction, we believe the NPS-preferred Alternative B provides the most balance among the three alternatives and deals well with FOR’s long-standing concerns, though some of our member organizations may favor the environmentally preferable Alternative A or a mix of elements from alternatives A and B.

Highlights of Alternative B:

  • Enhances opportunities for visitors to experience the park’s natural and cultural resources through resumption of an oral history program, establishment of a new visitor learning center at Powder Mill, and restoration of natural and cultural landscapes and historic structures.
  • Provides a balance of diverse recreational opportunities.
  • Develops two additional campgrounds at existing day-use areas at Akers and Blue Springs.
  • Closes undesignated roads and access points and restores 45 miles of roads to natural condition.
  • Converts 10 miles of roads in primitive zones to hiking trails.
  • Reduces the number of gravel bars open to motorized vehicles and limits drive-in camping to designated sites; access from the river to gravel bars will not change.
  • Provides for a horse use and trail management plan (possibly with a permit system), closes 65 miles of undesignated horse trails and river crossings, adds 35 miles of designated horse trails, and redesigns 23 miles of existing designated trails to limit impacts to natural and cultural resources.
  • Establishes non-motorized zones on the upper rivers to reduce user conflict while providing continued opportunities for motorboat use in the majority of the park on the lower stretches.
  • Fulfills a commitment in the 1984 GMP to identify areas in ONSR with wilderness qualities and recommends 3430 acres in the Big Spring area for such management.

We encourage everyone to comment on this important plan, as it will guide managers of the Riverways for the next twenty years. Comments must be submitted no later than January 8, 2014, either on-line at or by mail to ONSR, 404 Watercress Drive, P.O. Box 490, Van Buren MO.

We also encourage you to attend one of the public meetings:

  • December 10, Van Buren Youth & Community Center, 6-8pm open house, 8-9pm wilderness hearing
  • December 11, Salem City Hall Auditorium, 10am-12noon open house
  • December 11, Powder Valley Conservation Center (Kirkwood), 6-8pm open house, 8-9pm wilderness hearing

October, 2013

We are anxiously awaiting the release of the new General Management Plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Please check back here or our Facebook page for more information as it becomes available.

May, 2011

Today representatives from statewide environmental, fishing, paddling, and conservation organizations put the National Park Service on notice that more is expected in managing the Current River for the future.

American Rivers, a national conservation organization, issued its annual “America’s Most Endangered Rivers” report, and for the first time in the report’s 26-year history, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways park has been named one of the top ten endangered rivers.

“We have to do more today to avert the catastrophes of tomorrow,” says Kally Higgins, spokesperson for the Friends of Ozark Riverways. “We are seeing visible signs that the health of the Current River is in trouble. For example, we have seen in recent years restrictions on swimming at certain areas because of too high bacteria, and we are most concerned over erosion where inappropriate access points have sprung up. In fact, there are more than 130 access points that the Coalition has documented. It works out that it is the equivalent of one access point per mile. It is simply too much for the river to handle.”

The Current River is managed by the National Park Service and was established to provide both recreation and protection for the scenic beauty. The park features more than 350 springs, including the National Park’s largest spring, 338 recorded caves, and 200 wildlife species are found nowhere else in the world.

Speaking at today’s press conference, business owner, Lisa Hollenbeck, co-owner of Alpine Shop of Kirkwood, Missouri, said, “There is a quantifiable return on investment when we invest in our public lands and waters as exemplified by the recreation economy. The Current River offers the kind of access that is good for business and our economy.”

Coalition member Ron Coleman of The Open Space Council St. Louis noted, “The Ozark National Scenic Riverways is one of Missouri’s greatest natural treasures and is deserving of the highest level of management by the National Park Service. Overuse and abuse of this premier Ozark open space must be managed in a sustainable manner that insures for its long term conservation and outdoor recreation
value to our state and nation.”

“The Coalition and American Rivers are asking that the National Park Service bring the Current River up to the gold standard of the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park,” said Kally Higgins. “We have a chance to write the future general management  plan to address the mistakes of the past and guarantee that future generations can enjoy the river for fishing and recreation.”

News from our Facebook Page

About Us

Promoting a respectful management approach for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

The Coalition

Framework For Reform


Current Reports & Publications

Citizen Guide for Commenting 1/9/14 [Dates Revised]

By Friends of Ozark Riverways

pdf guide

Friends of Ozark Riverways Alert Draft Riverways Plan Open for Public Comment 1/9/14 [Dates Revised]

By Friends of Ozark Riverways

pdf of alert

Draft General Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement Summary of Key Excerpts

By National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

pdf of key excerpts

Other Reports & Publications

Editorial: Park Service must protect Missouri's scenic rivers

By the Editorial Board | Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2011 12:00 am [St Louis Post-Dispatch]

Memorial Day weekend revelers headed to one of Missouri's lakes or rivers for the unofficial beginning of summer should take note: Flooding from heavy spring rains have rendered some of Missouri's beautiful waters dangerous.

The high waters might keep some people away from a true gem, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. This year, that's not a bad thing.

Located in south central Missouri, in the heart of the Ozarks, the scenic riverways is a federal protected area consisting of 134 miles of the Current and Jack's Fork rivers, two of the clearest, most tranquil stream-fed waterways in the country.

Unfortunately, the ecosystem surrounding the rivers has been defiled by decades of overuse, leading the national conservation group American Rivers to list the Ozark National Scenic Riverways as one of the 10 most-endangered waterways in the country.
Full Text(doc)

Updated: Unenviable List: Ozark National Scenic Riverways Ranked Among 10 Most Endangered Rivers

Submitted by Kurt Repanshek on May 17, 2011 - 9:15am

The most recent data from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Water Protection Program shows that E.coli levels in the lower seven miles of the Jacks Fork have been increasing since 2002. E.coli levels have been linked to increased horse waste in the river and its tributaries. These rivers, the Jacks Fork and the Current, are supposed to be of the highest water quality in Missouri. Their high quality for recreation, especially for swimming in the national park, must not be degraded. In 2002 at river mile 4.5 the annual E.coli geometric mean was 26 and ... in 2009 it was 116. We must reverse this alarming trend.
Full Text(doc)

#10 Ozark National Scenic Riverways Missouri


2011 America’s Most Endangered Rivers™

The Ozark National Scenic Riverways feature clear water flowing from abundant springs and provide some of the Midwest’s best river recreation to 1.3 million visitors each year. However, poor management has led to motor vehicles and horses approaching and entering the river wherever they can, destroying vegetation, and causing severe erosion and pollution. Unless the National Park Service gives the Riverways the protections afforded to the country’s other national parks, the area’s clean water and rare remote experience will be lost.
Full Text(pdf)

A Legacy of Neglect: The Ozark National Scenic Riverways

By Susan Flader

Missouri’s Current River and its tributary, the Jacks Fork, were the nation’s first fed- erally protected rivers. Congressionally authorized in 1964 as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR),they served as a prototype for the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.But in May 2011 ONSR was identified by American Rivers as one of America’s ten most endangered rivers, owing to a history of inadequate management by the National Park Service (NPS).
Full Text (pdf)

Wild, Scenic & Trashed

If not for their horse, ORV and jet-boat hatches, the first two scenic rivers designated by Congress would offer only inspiring scenery and quiet, enjoyable fishing.

By Ted Williams for FlyRod & Reel

Full Text (pdf)

Vehicles and Horses in the Riparian Corridor: A Call for Management to NPS Standards

By Friends of Ozark Riverways January 29, 2011

This paper reports on work that Friends of Ozark Riverways (FOR) has done in identifying critical resource management issues related to motor vehicle river access and uncontrolled horse use in the riparian corridor of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (OZAR). It addresses two of the four issues of greatest concern to us, the others being inadequate supervision and outright violation of scenic easements, including a highly irregular and inappropriate land exchange that took place in 2002, and protection for Big Spring Wilderness.
Full Text (pdf)

Guest Editorial in Current Waves

By Kally Higgins

...To be clear, we aren't asking to close every road. We aren't saying no horses. We aren't advocating further horsepowere restrictions on motors. We're simply asking NPS to do their job and manage horses in our park and to do an honest inventory of roads and trails and close the ones that have an negative impact on the resource.
Full Text (pdf)