Ozark National Scenic Riverways was created by an Act of Congress on August 24, 1964, to protect 134 miles of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers in the Ozark Highlands of southeastern Missouri. The clean, clear waters of these two beautiful rivers provide excellent opportunities for johnboating, canoeing, swimming, fishing and tubing. Hiking, hunting and horseback riding are also enjoyed in the park. The landscape is predominantly rural, with broadleaf forests and occasional open fields.
The southeast Missouri Ozark Mountains are typified by narrow steep-sided hollows, numerous streams, springs and bluffs. Some dry hilltops feature desert-like glades where collared lizards, tarantulas, cacti and other species more typical of the Southwest may be found.
Much of the area is underlain by soluble limestone and dolomite, giving rise to sinkholes, caves, and springs of a classical karst topography. There are over 300 recorded caves within the boundaries and nearly as many springs.
Sixty per cent of the rivers' flow comes from seven major springs and 51 other springs of various sizes within the drainage basin. Big Spring, one of the largest springs in the United States, has an average flow of 276 million gallons of water per day. The maximum recorded flow in one day was 840 million gallons in June 1928.
There are 112 species of fish, 196 species of birds, and 58 species of mammals found in the park. There are also 25 species of snakes found in the park, including 4 poisonous species. There are hundreds of species of plants, ranging from beautiful but rare wild orchids to abundant goldenrod and coneflowers. If you take the time to look, you are sure to discover something wonderful at the Ozark National Scenic Riverways!