Over a million people a year visit the Current and Jack’s Fork Rivers – otherwise known as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, part of the National Park system – to partake of the amazing natural beauty of the area. The vast majority of those visitors float the streams in canoes, kayaks and rafts. However, paddling is far from the only attraction this park offers to outdoor types. It also offers caves and springs, trails for hiking and horseback riding, camping and even some cycling. In fact, it is quite possible to have a week-long trip in this beautiful national park and never take to the water.
Below are Alpine Shop‘s five best non-paddling destinations to round out your visit to the ONSR.
1. Round Spring & Cave
Located on the upper section of the Current River, Round Spring is a delightful place to visit. The surrounding terrain and mineral content of the water makes the flat surface appear to be curved and the spring opening is almost perfectly circular, thus the name Round Spring. Round Spring adds an average of 33 million gallons of water to the Current River each day. The beautiful spring branch flows under a short tunnel while making its way to the river. This area was one of Missouri’s first State Parks (1932) prior to its inclusion into the national park in 1964. (Note: people are not allowed to swim or wade in Round Spring.)
Nearby is the extremely beautiful Round Spring Cave. The National Park Service offers guided tours by lantern from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There is a small charge for the tour ($5 for adults and $2 for kids) and participation is limited to the first 15 people to buy tickets. These tours are offered daily at 10 am and 2 pm. Tickets go on sale 30 minutes before each tour. While there are over 300 known caves in the park, Round Spring Cave is the only one open to public tours.
2. Rocky Falls
This 40 foot wide cascade is one of the best waterfalls in the Ozarks. Some water flows year-round, but in the spring and after heavy rains will give you the best view of this amazing geologic formation. The falls are located about 22 miles east of Eminence, Mo. off Hwy H. The area includes pit latrines and a small picnic area. The plunge pool below the falls offers a great place for a swim during the hotter months.
3. Blue Spring
Blue Spring, called “Spring of the Summer Sky” by native Americans, is over 300 feet deep. This amazing depth gives the spring its brilliant sky-blue coloration. The area is reached by a gravel road off Hwy 106 east of Eminence, MO and features a picnic area and restrooms. This spring is best visited before the afternoon sun casts its shadow on the spring pool.
4. Big Spring
Big Spring is the one of the largest single outlet springs in the world pumping out over 246 million gallons of water on an average day. This amazing site offers picnic grounds, cabins, a dining lodge, and campground. The beautiful spring branch flows about a half mile to the Current River. Big Spring is located just outside of Van Buren, MO.
5. Klepzig Mill and Shut-ins
Located downstream from Rocky Falls, Klepzig Mill and Shut-Ins is one of the hidden gems of this National Park. You can find this seldom-visited place by following a somewhat rough gravel road (County Road #522) that heads to the left where the pavement ends on Highway NN. The old mill sits along the creek with a fascinating shut-in below. There are no facilities here, just a couple of pull outs for cars. The shut-ins provide a great place for a picnic.
Alpine Shop offers several float trips on the beautiful Current River each year. Click this link for details on the next planned outing.