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Ozark National Scenic Riverways

As part of our venture into the Ozark Mountains, we decided to finally stop by the park represented on Missouri’s quarter in the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful series.  Our pace at visiting these parks has slowed down quite a bit since we had kids but we still try to check off a couple each year.  For 2021 we managed to re-visit the parks for Oregon (Mt. Hood National Forest), Washington (Olympic National Park), Montana (Glacier National Park), North Dakota (Theodore Roosevelt National Park) and South Dakota (Mount Rushmore), all on our summer road trip.  We also checked Salt River Bay National Historical Park (U.S. Virgin Islands) off the list in February, so although we had a lot of repeats we had a fairly productive year. 

This was our first visit to Ozark National Scenic Riverways, which follows along the Current and Jacks Fork rivers in Southern Missouri.  As the park follows along several rivers, it covers quite a large area and we only spent a couple days here, mostly around Van Buren and Eminence, leaving a lot of the park unvisited.  Overall we were pleasantly surprised and definitely plan to return someday.

An autumn view of Big Spring at Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri.
Water detail at Big Spring in Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri.

As this was our first trip to the park and we didn’t do a ton of research, I’d say we didn’t have the best timing (for lighting) for some of the places we visited.  We saw Big Spring in the morning before the sun had fully lit the water, and we visited Rocky Falls late in the afternoon when the light had already fallen.  Regardless, the deep blue springs were really beautiful and it was a really nice place to visit.  If we hadn’t pre-planned and booked our whole trip in advance we would have liked to spend another day or two in the area, but we’ll just have to plan better next time!  

Views from Alley Mill:

Late afternoon view from Rocky Falls; would have been better in the morning light, but oh well!

Our final morning in Missouri I took a little solo drive the Riverfront Park in Van Buren and Big Spring. 

Ever since we had kids it has been (understandably) more difficult to take the whole family to sunrises or sunsets.  To be fair, I don’t know that my husband fully enjoyed my wake-up calls when it when it was just us two, but he tolerated it.  Nowadays, my job is to sneak out of the hotel room before sunrise without making too much noise so that the rest of the family can hopefully keep sleeping while I enjoy a solo sunrise photo excursion.

I successfully snuck out of our Missouri motel room on a chilly autumn morning to find a moody layer of fog on the Current River in Van Buren.  After taking a few shots, I continued my journey down to Big Spring (also along the Current River) where I found the same low fog rising off the blue spring waters combined with autumn colors and early morning light.

A sunrise view of the Current RIver from Riverside Park in Van Buren, MO.
A foggy morning view of Highway 60 crossing the Current River in Van Buren, Missouri.
First look at Big Spring on a foggy morning in Missouri.
A foggy autumn morning at Big Spring near Van Buren, Missouri, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
Looking towards the sunrise on a foggy autumn morning at Big Spring in Missouri.
A foggy autumn view of the Current River in Van Buren, Missouri.
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