Missouri, Current River and Ozark Trail

Hike and canoe through the pristine springs of Missouri's Ozarks.
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Hike and canoe through the pristine springs of Missouri's Ozarks.

>>Earth's largest collection of giant springs, each with a daily flow of more than 65 million gallons of water, line the banks of the Current and Jack's Fork Rivers.

>>Your basecamp: On the shores of the Current River you can watch wild horses descend from the forest each morning for a drink.

Day 1: A river safari

Launch your canoe at Jerktail Landing. This stretch of ((the Current?)) river tends to run broad, smooth, and clear with occasional swift-water riffles and snags. Herds of wild horses, deer, and other wildlife descend from wooded bluffs to the water's edge in the early morning hours. If you're itching to stretch your legs, some can't-miss sights are Prairie Hollow Gorge (1 mile past Jack's Fork confluence) and Blue Springs (river left at mile 14). Camp a mile downstream from Blue Springs, on the right bank. After dark, expect a coyote chorus and the "who cooks for you" hoot of barred owls.

Day 2: Ozarks on foot

Walk out of camp onto the Ozark Trail (just up the hill to the west), and hike through oak-hickory forest to the red granite outcrops of the Rocky Creek valley. In 4 miles, you'll reach historic Klepzig Mill; in 7 miles, you'll find Rocky Falls. At the 9-mile mark, Stegall Mountain's lookout tower offers panoramic views of the deep woods, hills, and hollows of the Current River country.

Day 3: Down the ant hole

Break camp and float downstream, passing over the deep underwater caves of the Ant Hole rock formation and next to the terraced limestone of Cardareva Bluff. If you have time to spare, cast a line; more than 100 species of fish call the Current River home. Watch for bald eagles and osprey overhead. Take out at Paint Rock Bluff (river left) 26 miles below your starting point at Jerktail Landing.

Guide: Missouri Ozark Waterways, by Oz Hawksley (Ozark National Scenic Riverways; $6).

Contact: Ozark National Scenic Riverways, (573) 323-4236; www.nps.gov/ozar/.