Ozark National Scenic Riverways: Free Flowing Forever

Mar 25, 2016

Ozark National scenic Riverways HQ in Van Buren Mo.
Credit Mike Smith / KSMU-FM

KSMU Producer Mike Smith:  “As the KSMU Sense of Community continues to celebrate the Centennial Year of the National Park Service, we travel a little over 140 miles east of Springfield to Van Buren Missouri, where the Headquarters of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways is located.  ONSR was created by an act of Congress in 1964 to protect and preserve the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers.”

Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park Superintendent Larry Johnson:  “The rivers themselves that are part of ONSR comprise 134 miles.  That translates out into the land ownership around those rivers to roughly 81 thousand acres. The mission of the National Park Service essentially is To Preserve the Resources for Future Generations.  That’s quoted in the Organic Act of 1916, which leads the NPS to its Centennial Year 2016.  But to paraphrase it, the way I view it is we try to insure that your grandkids and their grandkids can come back here and find it pretty much the same way you do today.”

Mike Smith: “On average, around 1.3 million visitors come to ONSR annually, the majority for recreational floating in canoes, kayaks and inner tubes. Superintendent Larry Johnson says large numbers of visitors also use the park for fishing, camping, hiking and hunting.”

Larry Johnson:  “Yeah, hunting is permitted within the parameters of State law, and we work closely with our partners in the Missouri Dept. of Conversation on that, same with fishing.  Equestrian use is pretty strong particularly in the upper Current and Jacks Fork areas.  We have several campgrounds up and down the rivers.  Some are busier than others.  Alley Spring Campground by Eminence is pretty popular given its proximity to some of the most scenic aspects of ONSR.  The Alley Mill of course is iconic, and it looks like it’s got a 50-50 chance of being on the 2017 America the Beautiful quarter.  The jury is still out on what design will be selected but it looks like our iconic Alley Mill is a strong contender.”

Alley Spring and Mill is Located Just West of Eminence Mo.
Credit Mike Smith / KSMU-FM

Mike Smith:  “Alley Mill sits atop and is powered by Alley Spring.  The original grist mill dates from the 1860’s, but the present mill with its 3 story red barn like look was built in 1894 by GW McCaskill and was equipped with steel rollers for grinding grain.  Alley Spring’s daily flow into the Jacks Fork River west of Eminence is around 81 million gallons.  According to the NPS, the ONSR Current and Jacks Fork Rivers  in Dent, Texas, Shannon and Carter Counties, is home to more First Magnitude Springs, springs with a daily flow of more than 65 million gallons, than anywhere else on earth.”

ONSR  Public Information Officer and Acting Chief of Interpretation Dena Matteson:  “The Theme for the NPS Centennial is Find Your Park, and we really want to encourage folks to find their park and find something they enjoy doing in their park.  Perhaps something they haven’t experienced in the past.  As you know part of the NPS Centennial goal is to create the next generation of park stewards and advocates.  And so we hope to encourage that sense of pride and stewardship in helping take care of what is a wonderful but also wide, spread out resource.  As a part of that goal, we’ve developed a list of outdoor recreation workshops, community celebrations and outdoor volunteer days, starting in April and continuing into December.”

ONSR Park Superintendent Larry Johnson:  “It’s really an exciting time for the NPS.  Really the underlying principle of the Centennial is to insure the National Park Service stays relevant to people today.  The stakes have never been higher.”   

For more information on the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and its celebration of the National Park Service Centennial, visit www.nps.gov/ozar

As part of its Centennial Year, the National Park Service has collaborated with StoryCorp to share interviews and oral histories about National Park Service sites in the Midwest.