The Other Nat’l River
Ozarkians probably don’t realize how lucky they are. Besides living in the second best floating state (behind Alaska) with an abundant number of clear water streams –– all four national rivers are located in the Midwest.
The St. Croix River forms a good part of the northern Minnesota-Wisconsin border. The best three though are located right in our back yard. The Buffalo National River in Arkansans (the first), and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) which will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2020, is located in southern Missouri. The ONSR includes the Jacks Fork and Current Rivers, and is considered just a step above all others in Missouri.
There are still pending applications for another half-dozen rivers, including the Eleven Point River to be considered for inclusion.
But for now, and because of various issues such as the current political domain and the cost associated with a floating “National Park,” don’t hold your breath. Also because the political differences of the nation run so equally deep and divisive, there will probably be no more national rivers designated in the near future, unfortunately.
In this column, we have referred to the Buffalo Nat’l River several times, and recently the Jacks Fork River. But the lengthy Current River (151 miles) is the same free-water length as the Buffalo although its waters run a little slower. The last 12 miles of the scenic Current River, in its lower stretch, floats through a beautiful pine and cypress forest until it joins with the Black River.
Most spring-fed of all Ozark streams, the total length of the Current River is floatable 12-months of the year. The river is formed by the vast number of springs contained in Montauk State Park, one of four official river trout streams that DNR keeps constantly stocked with rainbow trout.
For an upper float, one must put in just below the state park at Tan Vat Access in eastern Texas County. For the first 16 1/2 miles down to Akers Ferry, hold on to your light weight reel and rod, as the trout fishing can be ferocious. Unfortunately, all the way down to its juncture with the Jacks Fork River at Two Rivers, 53 miles, the river is popular with canoeists, especially on summer weekends.
So hint! Try to float off-season or during a week-day in order to avoid crowds.
At normal water levels, the Current River is a good solid Class I float, suitable for beginners but maybe not for pure novices.
The gradient for the first 20 miles is almost a 9’ drop per mile. From there to the Jacks Fork, the river drops 5’/mile.
At river mile marker 90.0, the largest freshwater spring in the U.S. enters the river. Below this point at Big Springs, you will encounter several small craft equipped with outboard motors; and the gradient slows considerably.
The Current River is another handy floating National Park, and we should feel quite fortunate to have it located in our back yard.
There are campgrounds/accesses located at the following points: Montauk State Park and Cabins, Cedargrove (river mile 9.0), Akers Ferry (16.5), Pulltite Spring and Campground (26.6), Round Spring (35.0), Jerktail Landing (47.5), Two Rivers (53.0), Hwy 106 Bridge and Powder Spring Creek (60.0), Log Yard (70.0), Point Rock Bluff and Access (73.5), Chilton Creek Access (79.0), Watercress Park and Van Buren (85.5), Big Spring State Park and Cabins (90.0), Catarac Landing (99.0), Bagamaw Bay USFS Camp (107.0), Cedar Creek USFS Float Camp (111.5), Compton Camp USFS site (114.0), Deer Leep USFS Float Camp (120.0), US 160 Bridge and Doniphan MDC Access (125.0), and Current View Access just across the Arkansas line (139.0). Good small-mouth fishing on the lower river.
Note (May 29):
Anyone had enough rain yet?
We are sitting here in the lower Hunter Creek Valley at 30 inches of rain so far, 12.5 inches above normal. Of course, as we all know, however, the spigot could turn off at any time and we might receive little or no rain until October, struggling to reach our normal 44 inches annual rain belt here in eastern Douglas County.
Now, get up and go enjoy our beautiful Ozarks outdoors!