Thursday, May 22, 2014

Riding Our National Park Systems: The Ozark National Scenic Riverway

Riding Our National Park Systems

by Lenice Basham

PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

*If you have a National Park System you would like to see featured in this segment, or have photos of you and your family riding in a National Park System, send your photos/suggestions to

Part One: The Ozark National Scenic Riverway

Photo by National Park Service

It is appropriate, as Loren’s family spent millions of hours running the Cross Country Trail Ride (before its move to the current location), to begin this series about our National Park System with the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. Loren’s grandparents, Ralph and Mildred Branson, purchased the Cross Country Trail Ride in 1961 and moved it to Leonard Bolin’s Circle B Campground, along the banks of the Jack’s Fork River. The trail ride moved again in 1963 to Montauk State Park on the Current River. In 1964, the ride was moved to Alley Springs, once again on the Jack’s Fork River. After staying there for five years, the late Danny Staples bought property down river from Alley Springs and the Branson’s, along with their daughter, Sue, operated the trail rides there until it was sold to the present owners in 1980. In 1981 owners, Jim and Jane Smith moved the location further downstream to its present location.

The Ozark National Scenic Riverways has approximately 80,000 acres along the Jacks Fork and Current Rivers in Missouri. In 1924 state parks were established at Round Spring, Alley Spring and Big Spring. In 1933, land was purchased for the Clark National Forest. This later became known as the Mark Twain National Forest. In 1964, the area became the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. The park was dedicated on June 10, 1972, when Tricia Nixon christened the river. There are more than 130 miles of rivers included in this riverways. The rivers are largely spring fed with seven major springs and an additional 51 smaller springs.

Primitive camping is available in multiple areas in the park. Generally these have rustic facilities such as pit type toilets and no electricity. The fee for these “backcountry” sites is $5.00. Do not bring firewood with you to the National Park. The National Park Service states, “Moving firewood around the country helps spread forest pests like the Emerald Ash Borer and Gypsy Moth.”

A map of the parks can be found at There is access to the Ozark Riverways via US 60 or Missouri state highway 19. Highway 19 is a narrow and windy two lane highway with beautiful scenery.

The National Park Service has the following guidelines for horse camping while at the Ozark National Scenic Riverway: 1. Stay on established roads and traces. 2. Please cross only at designated river crossings. This prevents erosion and deterioration of riverbanks which muddies the river and degrades fish habitat. 3. Please do not bathe your horse in the river. Thousands of horses and their riders visit the area each year. The cumulative effect can be diminished water quality. 4. Respect the land you've come to enjoy. Please do not litter, gather artifacts (including arrowheads) or damage natural or historical features. Leave it beautiful for the next rider. 5. Use hitching rails where available, rather than tying horses to trees. Horses may damage trees by gnawing on bark or pawing roots. 6. Springs and spring branches are unique and beautiful. Please keep them running clear and clean by not riding swimming or wading into them. 7. Please do not ride into campgrounds, picnic areas and other developed areas. (Except designated horse camps: Bay Creek and "Horse Camp" near Alley.) 8. Most of the riding trails pass through private lands. Please respect the landowners where you ride. It only takes a few unfortunate incidents to cause a private landowner to close his land.

Horse camping is available at Bay Creek and Horse Camp near Alley Springs.

This is a beautiful place to visit and take your mules. You will enjoy the spring and fall foliage. You will enjoy the cool river during the summer months. Take time now to plan a trip to this or any other National Park.

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