Saving the Ozark Riverways

The Current River has had a long history of neglect and exploitation. In the 19th and 20th centuries, deforestation and free grazing threatened its ecological health. Now, the biggest threats to the river are mismanagement and overuse.
The Current River has had a long history of neglect and exploitation. In the 19th and 20th centuries, deforestation and free grazing threatened its ecological health. Now, the biggest threats to the river are mismanagement and overuse. The Current stretches 184 miles from Southeast Missouri to Northern Arkansas. Due to its wild, scenic nature, the river was set aside for government protection in 1964 as our first national riverway. One of its tributaries, the Jacks Fork, was also included in this protection. Today, these two rivers make up the Ozark National Scenic Riverways which supports an average 1.5 million visitors per year.

However, the protection offered the rivers has recently been called into question. Despite the Park Service’s mission to conserve scenery and natural health, the Current was placed on the organization American Rivers’ “Top 10 Most Endangered Rivers” list of 2011. The nonprofit’s report cited more than 100 unmanaged access points along the river and over 250 miles of illegal horse trails. The overuse of equestrians and the mismanagement of trails have together deteriorated the river’s water quality and exacerbated erosion. Fay Augustyn, conservation associate for American Rivers, said that, “If the National Park Service doesn’t do a better job of protecting these rivers, everything that makes them special—their clean water and value to paddlers and anglers—will be lost.”

The Park Service plans to address these concerns in a new general management plan that will be released for public opinion this summer. Please visit Friends of the Ozark Riverways to learn more.