by Bruce Wallace
For hours this past weekend, my wife – with her trusty composite-wood, custom paddle – and I were the only two people left on earth.
The Current River can make you feel that way.
Without another canoe, kayak, drunk-on-a-floatation-device, or other amphibious vessel within sight, we paddled silently with only the birds on either side of the Ozarks River calling to each other. Sort of the Pandora station for bird calls, you might say.
The Current River has been kicked around in recent years as a place to run into too many drunks, dependent upon loading themselves up with beer in order to have a decently good time. Many of those drunks were known to bring their equally inebriated girlfriends and the Scenic Ozarks waterways were suddenly known for a different kind of scenery.
I laughed just last week about how I would be enjoying the Current River with “50,000 of my new best friends.”
In more than four hours of paddling/floating, we might have seen 100 people – an astonishingly low number for a holiday weekend.
But there are a few factors for my solitude some locals clued me into:
• The water was up – parts of the Current and other Ozark rivers were closed this past weekend due to high waters.
• Additional water patrols on the river have the out-of-control behavior under control – for the most part.
• It’s still early. Big summer crowds won’t hit Emminence and other Ozarks hotspots until mid-July, according to the locals.
But last Sunday morning, a part of the National Ozarks Scenic Waterways was mine, all blessed mine.
For a few miles, the only sounds other than the birds was the quiet slap of water as we dipped our paddles in, took slow strokes and lifted them from the water in unison.
While we have debates, like many other couples, in our marriage – paint colors, how long to grill a steak, ballgame or The Bachelor on TV- we have compete agreement on how to enjoy nature.
Water gurgling out of the ground has fascinated people for centuries. The springs along the Current and Jack’s Fork Rivers in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways do not gurgle – they gush millions of gallons of water every day.
In 1934, Congress authorized the 134 miles of rivers as the first national scenic riverways.
With so many U.S. rivers harnessed by dams, the fight to keep these Ozark waterways free-flowing and as pristine as possible has been difficult, but the more people from St. Louis, Kansas City, Mid-Missouri and from outside the state visit the Current/Jack’s Fork, the more they realize the importance and have appreciation for hiking, fishing, floating and family outings at the rivers.
Many residents in the Ozarks will disagree on how the rivers should be preserved – many like to utilize the nearby land for horseback riding or four-wheeling and get closer to the river – or in the river – than others want – but nearly all agree that the rivers should remain free-flowing.
The National Park system – 100 years old this year – works to protect the rivers and the watershed to ensure the enjoyment of them in a natural sense and there is no reason to change that because along the Current River, it is simply perfection. Nature’s perfection.
The Missouri State Parks System will soon be opening a new state park near the Current River (see page 12 of today’s Journal) and it will be another excellent way for residents of the Show-Me State to enjoy our Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
If you have not been in a while, make a plan to visit the Current or Jack’s Fork River this summer. It does not matter how many times you have visited in the past – we are always in awe of perfection.