North of Arkansas’ Buffalo National River on the Ozark Plateau is Ozark National Scenic Riverways, perhaps the wildest section of Missouri. Unlike the many reservoirs around Branson, here the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers flow freely and have been managed by the National Park Service since 1964. The best way to explore the serpentine park boundaries is on the water, but roads and trails access several areas.
Canoeing/kayaking, Blue Spring, Alley Mill, karst landforms and caves
The crystal clear spring-fed water of the Jack’s Fork River is home to a variety of fish, birds, and even the occasional beaver. We paddled 25 miles from Buck Hollow to Alley Spring, a pleasant day trip.
The dolomite and limestone karst underneath this park is riddled with caves and sinkholes, like Devils Well, Round Spring Cave (ranger guided tours for a fee), and Jam Up Cave (only accessible from the Jack’s Fork River).
Hike to 310-foot deep Blue Spring (which was aptly called Spring of the Summer Sky by Native Americans) or drive to the bright red Alley Mill that dates back to 1894.
Spring offers peak water flows for canoeing/kayaking
None, but you can pay local concessionaires to rent canoes and shuttle your vehicle.
Highways are paved and most dirt roads are narrow but passable with a passenger vehicle when dry
There are many campgrounds within Ozark National Scenic Riverways, some with full RV hookups and some primitive (we especially liked Bay Creek). Floaters on the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers are allowed to camp on gravel bars.
Explore More – The colorful Blue Spring pumps out how many million gallons of water per day?