The last week of April, two friends and I backpacked through the Current River Ozark National Scenic Riverway in Missouri. We floated the river from Round Spring access to the Powder Mill Ferry access by "shuttling" with our backpacks. We hiked part of the Ozark Trail (Blair Creek section), used some old abandoned roads, and did a fair bit of cross-country bashing through National Park lands, Missouri Conservation areas, and the Roger Pryor Backcountry section of Pioneer Forest (private land with public access.)
To begin, we dropped our canoes at Round Spring, locked them and some extra gear and food (in large, lockable ammo boxes) to a tree. We then drove to Powder Mill, hoisted our packs (mine UL, my friends', well, not so UL) and ambled down the Ozark Trail, paralleling Blair Creek, a beautiful tributary to the Current River. There were several inspiring views of the river and surrounding countryside. Our first night out we camped at the mouth of Barn Hollow, a small trib with gorgeous spring wildflower displays in its valley. The next day, we crossed into the valley of Big Creek, a delightful spring-fed stream with absolutely transparent water, wary smallmouth bass and more beautiful wildflowers. Our day ended at the mouth of another small trib, again on the banks of the Current River. We went to sleep with the sounds of beaver and otter working and playing in the river, and awoke to the sounds of wild turkeys gobbling on both sides of us. After a fairly strenuous climb up several of the area's infamous steep hills (as the locals say, "The hills aren't very high, but the valleys sure are deep!")we emerged at the Missouri Highway 19 bridge over the river. A short walk took us back to our boats, which we checked over and unlocked (all was well.) A couple of other friends arrived about 15 minutes after us, with their boats on the car. They brought fresh food, Dutch ovens and ice cold Guinness! The next two nights were spent on gravel bars on the river, feasting and boasting with good friends!
The Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks are an unknown treasure in the center of the US. The landscape isn't as expansive as western wilderness, and the Ozarks don't have the sheer spectacle of glaciated mountain peaks, but they do have enough space to get lost in, and an intimate beauty of Midwest forest and glade. Missouri is the meeting point of several different landforms, with glaciated plains in the north, highly dissected uplifts in the south and remnants of the Eastern deciduous forest grading into the prairies of the West. It has one of the highest concentrations of large springs in the world, crystal clear rivers, and over 5500 caves. There are 1.5 billion-year-old volcanic rocks in the southeast, some of the best karst on the planet, and two of the largest rivers in the world.
Backpacking and floating through this varied landscape is absolutely the best way to see it!
I'm sorry that I don't have any pics to share. None of us remembered to bring a camera! Perhaps next time...