A new spur of the Ozark Trail is under construction along the Current River in Shannon County’s rugged northern backcountry. Once completed it will create the first hike/float loops within the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and connect the nearby National Park Service facilities with the L-A-D Foundation’s Roger Pryor Pioneer Backcountry as well as Current River and Echo Bluff state parks.
“This is a massive undertaking, it’s one of the largest projects we’ve undertaken on in the 15 years since we we’re created,” says Ozark Trail Association President Kathie Brennan. “It’s going to be a few more years before we're done, but once we do finish, this will give our kids one of the best opportunities to enjoy nature in Missouri and discover the unique history and ecosystems of the Ozarks.”
Brennan led hundreds of volunteers Saturday and Sunday blazing a path north from Round Spring through the last couple of miles to Echo Bluff State Park. The group was joined by Interpretive Ranger Dave Tobey of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
“This will open up so many opportunities for our visitors and local people, and what gets us even more exciting is it reconnects our communities,” Tobey says. “Often times we as locals don’t realize just how significant this area of the Ozarks is from a global perspective. We have more first magnitude springs here than any place in the world. The Current River Trail will draw more people in and also help even more realize we are just as special as Yellowstone or Yosemite.”
Brennan and Tobey say the premier offering of the Current River Trail will be hike/float loops of varying distances. A hike/float loop is a trail hikers can trace upriver to a finishing point, from where they can float back down from where they started.
The Current River spur of the Ozark Trail will offer several such options of varying distances. The most ambitious for now is a multiday hiking adventure over more than 30 miles from Powder Mill northwest to Round Spring, and then floating 23 miles back down the Current River. A single day option is available hiking north seven miles from Round Spring to Current River State Park, and then floating back five miles. A shorter half-day option is also available hiking two miles north from Round Spring to Echo Bluff State Park and then floating two miles back down. Tobey says one day a trail may even create an even bigger loop if Montauk State Park is included on the Current River Trail.
“This will be a great opportunity for Boy Scouts and other groups to enjoy both the Current River and the Ozark backcountry,” Tobey says. “The loops also eliminate the need for those brining their own kayak to pay for shuttle back up the river once their done.”
Brennan says the original vision for the trail was that of the late John Roth, a resident of Steelville and longtime member of the Ozark Trail Association.
“When we would stay in John’s yard his vision was so strong that he would bring you into his house and he would point out Current River State Park and say, ‘If we do a trail and come along the Current River and go up Brushy Creek we can have this huge opportunity for hiking and floating,’” Brennan says. “This has been a 10-year project and I am happy to know it is moving toward completion with the help of our volunteers. We have a video on our website and it end with John saying ‘At the end of the day when you look and see collectively what everybody built as a trail, the hair rises up on the back of your neck because everything you did was not there before, and now it’ll be there tomorrow and for future generations.’”
Brennan says there will be a plenty more volunteer opportunities helping build the trail going forward, with the next event taking place on Oct. 28 and 29.
“We will provide lunch on the trail and at our mega-built events we’ll even have live music,” Brennan says. “Even if you only come out to work for one day you will be making a significant impact, and you’ll never take another trail for granted again. It a great way to have a lot of fun and meet new people.”
All upcoming trail building events and details are posted will be posted online at www.ozarktrail.com. You can also call the Round Spring Ranger Station for more details at (573) 323-8093.