News Release

Ozark National Scenic Riverways is beginning to expand recreational access

people on gravel bar putting in kayaks, rafts by clear river
Float concessions and outfitters will be authorized to open for business at Ozark National Scenic Riverways on May 9

NPS Photo

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News Release Date: May 5, 2020

Contact: Dena Matteson, 573-323-4814

Van Buren, MO -   Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Ozark National Scenic Riverways is increasing recreational access and services. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.

Beginning May 9, Ozark National Scenic Riverways will expand access as follows:  
  • Park concession operations and outfitters will be authorized to open for business at their discretion, as they are able to meet CDC guidelines. Some float concessions may opt to remain closed as they adapt their business practices to implement CDC guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Camping on gravel bars while engaging in multi-day floats and dispersed camping along the Ozark Trail while engaging in multi-day hikes will be allowed.
  • The spring branch hiking trails at Big Spring and Alley Spring will reopen, as well as the staircase into Devils Well.

The following spaces and services continue to be available:   
  • Restrooms at many river access points and day use areas will continue to be open as they have been.
  • Park rangers are available to answer questions by phone at (573)323-4236, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., seven days a week.

With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed at this time:
  • All campgrounds and designated campsites will remain closed but are expected to reopen on May 22, with the exception of group campsites.
  • All picnic pavilions and group campsites will remain closed but are expected to reopen on June 5. 
  • Restrooms and showers are expected to reopen May 22, although there will be short closures to accommodate rotations for cleaning and disinfecting in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • All visitor contact stations, including the Alley General Store and Van Buren Visitor Information Center will remain closed.

“We are following state and local guidance, as well as the White House guidelines for Opening Up America Again, and will follow a phased approach to reopening our facilities and bringing back our summer workforce,” said Acting Superintendent Jason Lott.  “We are continuing to evaluate how soon we can safely open additional facilities and resume services and programming. Visitors are encouraged to continue taking any personal safety precautions that make them feel more comfortable during their visit.”

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. At Ozark National Scenic Riverways, our operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored. We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.  

While a number of areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, including the guidance in the Show Me Strong Recovery Plan at, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.

The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19, and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.  

We have amazing virtual tours, images and kids activities for Ozark National Scenic Riverways, all of the time, so for people who are still home schooling or not traveling at this time check out, or visit @ozarkriverways on Facebook or @ozarkriverwaysnps on Instagram.

For additional information, please contact (573)323-4236, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., seven days a week. Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on our website and social media channels. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on

Ozark National Scenic Riverways preserves 134 miles of the free-flowing Current and Jacks Fork rivers, the surrounding resources, and the unique cultural heritage of the Ozark people.  

Learn more at  Find us on Facebook  @ozarkriverways and on Instagram @ozarkriverwaysnps.

Last updated: May 5, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 490
Van Buren, MO 63965


(573) 323-4236

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