Ozark Rivers National Monument
A Proposal
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Only a few miles by today's standards from St. Louis or Kansas City or Memphis lies a portion of the Ozarks still relatively wild and natural. The Ozarks are old—mellow with the beauty of great age—remnants of an ancient mountain range. Uplift and water have molded them. Climate has influenced them.

Today, this particular area houses a unique complex of springs and rivers, caves and sinks, plants and animals. Here are many springs—some giant, some small. Here are spring-fed rivers, the Current, the Jacks Fork, and the Eleven Point—cold, clear, abounding with and goggle-eye.

Here are caves created by waters of the past, many containing an unusual variety of multicolored formations, some still uncharted. Here are interesting sinks—ground surface reminders of cave roof fall-ins below. Here are found the shortleaf pine, oaks of many names, the redbud, the red wolf, the osprey, and the pileated woodpecker—overall, a surprisingly varied ecology.

Nearly 10,000 years ago, Early Man lived beside these same waters. He too must have marveled at the springs and the rivers flowing from them. More recently, the Indian, the Frenchman, the Spaniard, the logger each had his day. Descendants of settlers who came mainly from the Appalachians now people the area. Much of the folk culture and character of early American society remains with them.

For years—largely because of this unusual combination of natural values—there has been interest in preservation of parts of this scene. Four State parks have been established—3 along the Current River and 1 along the Jacks Fork. Two wildlife areas have been set aside by the Missouri Conservation Commission.

As early as 1950, the State of Missouri recognized a need to preserve the natural qualities of the Current and Eleven Point Rivers. As recently as January 1959, the Missouri Legislature asked the Congress of the United States to establish a national recreation area to preserve the free-flowing qualities of these very rivers.

Here in the heart of the Ozark plateau, lies a unique opportunity to set aside an outstanding type of area—one not now represented in the National Park System. Here too, is the opportunity to preserve still unspoiled rivers with many miles of shoreline.

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To preserve this area, establishment of an Ozark Rivers National Monument, as part of the National Park System, is now proposed. The Monument, consisting of approximately 113,000 acres, would be located along some 190 miles of the Current, Jacks Fork, and Eleven Point Rivers. This area would contain the most important portion of these scenic rivers as well as some 13 named caves, 11 geological sites, more than 40 archeological sites, several fine ecological sites, and many springs and sinks.

Natural concentration of these features in the river valleys makes possible their preservation for public enjoyment in relatively narrow strips of land. It would be difficult to find an area where so much beauty and variety can be preserved by setting aside so little. A sizable block along the Current River has been included to allow preservation of a significant example of typical Ozark topography. Preservation of the area's fragile qualities, while allowing its use, would be the basic objective of all planning, development, and administration.

Here would be an area preserved for use of people—an opportunity to float the Current or the Jacks Fork or the Eleven Point, to watch the osprey at work, to try camping on a gravel bar, to test the boater's or fisherman's skill, to watch the Ozarks renowned fall colors pass by, or perhaps even just to loaf. Hiking along the riverbank or to some remote cave, sink, or site where man of yesterday lived; wandering through little known Powder Mill Cave or into spectacular Jam Up Cave; climbing down a shaded trail to magnificent Greer Spring—all of these and many other opportunities would be available to the visitor. A carefully developed interpretive program would add to his enjoyment and understanding of the area.

Sixteen percent of the land in the proposed Ozark Rivers National Monument is now publicly owned, with administration divided between the Missouri Conservation Commission and the United States Forest Service. The remainder is privately owned. Acquisition of this private land might cost in the neighborhood of $5,500,000.

Based on certain premises, the University of Missouri estimated that within 5 years of the Monument's establishment, and assuming adequate development, annual tourist expenditures would increase $5,500,000. Applying information contained in the University's report, the National Park Service estimates that assessed valuation on local tax rolls, would increase by $8,700,000, and the annual tax return by $300,000. This would more than compensate for the taxes lost due to removal of Monument lands from the tax rolls.

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Last Updated: 04-Nov-2009