A Framework for
Reform and Restoration of Ozark National Scenic Riverways
In 1964 Congress established the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, protecting the Current River and its major tributary the Jacks Fork. That law was supported by Missourians across the state, the Governor, and the entire Missouri Congressional delegation. One reflection of the state’s support was the donation of three Missouri State Parks (Round Spring, Alley Spring, and Big Spring) to the Park Service to form the nucleus for the Riverways.
In 1963, before the Subcommittee on National Parks of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, George B. Hartzog, Assistant Director of the National Park Service said:
In this proposal for Ozark National Rivers, it is intended that preservation of the area’s natural and wilderness qualities shall be a major consideration, and while public enjoyment will be encouraged, it is recognized that preservation is basic to all planning, development, and administration.
This first national river park provided the legislative as well as practical park experience for the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1968 and then for the Buffalo National River in Arkansas in 1972.
The Ozark National Scenic Riverways includes more than 60,000 acres of fee title property and more than 9,000 acres of privately-owned property where publicly-funded scenic easements restrict further development in order to protect the scenic river corridor. There are more than 1.3 million visitors to the park each year. This is a place where waters from some of the largest springs in North America empty into forested river valleys, the cool clean water providing wonderful floats in all seasons. The river valley comprises important aquatic habitat, hundreds of caves, classic karst geology, rich flora, and remnants of prehistoric as well as traditional Ozark culture. It is a resource of truly national importance.
Tragically, in recent years, overdevelopment and motorized access, commercial horse over-use, scenic easement violations, and overcrowding have taken their toll. The natural and cultural quality of the Riverways has actually declined under Park Service stewardship. Up and down the 134 miles of river the impact is severe and is growing worse. Some of the shocking evidence of this degradation is presented here.
A growing number of Missourians and conservation and outdoor organizations have begun the call for reform. Together we are working for a better future for this most important river resource.
Please select a topic below to learn more about the issues and steps required to remedy the riverways
- Overdevelopment and Motorized Intrusion
- Scenic Easements
- Commercial Horse Over-Use
- Conclusion and Follow Up