Ozark National Scenic Riverways is at its wildest and scenic best on the Jacks Fork from the Mo. 17 bridge crossing to Alley Spring. The Jacks Fork can be floated year-round if you have learned to "read" the water currents and are prepared to sacrifice some aluminum from your canoe to the underlying rocks. But spring is the best time of year to float for the water is up. There are only a few thin shoals where you will have to step out and lead your canoe; you can't portage.
Buck Hollow is the favored access for a long, fast one-day float trio or a lazy two-day trip to Alley Spring. For a shorter trip, intermediate putins/takeouts are available at Ebb and Flow Spring, Bay Creek, Alley Spring, and Eminence.
Average floating time in hours from BUCK HOLLOW:
Blue Spring - 1 hour
Ebb and Flow Spring - 3 hours
Bay Creek - 6 hours
Alley Spring - 8 hours
Eminence, Mo. - 10 hours
Two Rivers - 13 hours
Here is a sample of the treasures along the float.
BLUE SPRlNG - In the bare-rock cliff on the left is Hospital Cave. Here at various times during the Civil War both Northern and Southern soldiers were given care. Just downstream, Blue Spring flows from a cave through rocks strewn at the base of the cliff.
BAPTIZING HOLE - The old road that wound back and forth across fords in the river for many kilometers seemed to pause at this wide bank and invite the community to basket dinners and camping r creation. Church groups often gathered for services at Baptizing Hole.
MUCK 40 HOLE - Here's the place where Ozarkers tell the story of John "Muck" Reece. It seems Reece and some friends were fishing one night wit gigs for yellow suckers by the light from pine knots burning on clay mud in the middle of their John Boat. As he struck for a fish, Muck lost his footing and fell over board. When he finally came up sputtering, he claimed he had sunk for 40 "foot." His friends teased him about it for years.
JAM UP CAVE - Following the path about half way up the bluff you will find the entrance to this long cave. From here you can see a falls and pool inside the cave.
MEETING HOUSE CAVE - The Civil War broke out just when it could be said that newcomers from the east had fairly settled the Ozark Mountain region. Farms were neglected and homesteads destroyed as guerrilla bands marauded through the region from 1862 to 1865. When it was over, a large part of the population had scatter . According to legend, this cave was used as a hideout by both sides dun g the war.
EBB AND FLOW SPRING - The spring on the left is attractive during "flow," but may be only a trickle during "ebb." The intervals are very irregular and not well understood, except that they probably bear some relation to local precipitation and its effect on the water table below ground. What's your theory?
RYMERS - Access here is off county highway M at the site of an old resort.
BUNKER HILL RANCH - No access please respect the private property rights of the Missouri State Teachers Association.
CHALK BLUFF - This long, high bluff comes into view at t e beginning of a sharp left bend in the river after you pass Still House Hollow. Chalky limestone and dolomite, which make up most of the other river bluffs, are the most resistant forms of limestone, but for different reasons. Dolomite is hard enough to withstand erosion, while the chalk is so soft and porous that water immediately penetrates through it with hardly any erosive effect.
LEATHERWOOD CREEK - This is just one place along the river where you can pause and see a wide variety of Ozark flora. Species characteristic of the Appalachians far to the east grow on the cliff bluffs and ridges. Southern plant varieties are found in the low marshes d near potholes Even the plants f the arid West have their place in the Ozark woods, a botanical mix at the temperate center of the continent.
BEE BLUFF - Homes of honey bees can sometimes be seen in the holes high in Bee Bluff's uneven face.
BAY CREEK - Now you pick up the access road (from Mo. 106) that follows the north bank of the river. Campsites continue down to Bay Creek.
FISH TRAP HOLE - Ozark Mountain streams are among the best in Missouri for fishing. Smallmouth and large-mouth bass, rock bass, and walleye are some of the 93 known species of fish that swim the Jacks Fork and the Current Rivers. Any of the fishing holes far too numerous to count might yield proof of the Ozark's reputation. A favorite spot is here in the deepening river after a sharp right turn through Grandma Rocks.
ALLEY SPRING - Just after the bridge, get out and walk a short way up the spring branch. There at the base of a high concave cliff, Alley Spring gushes forth 307 million liters (81 million gallons) of water daily. The spring, among the four largest on the Riverways still supplies power for Red Mill. When the mill is open, visitors are invited inside to see demonstrations of the ingeniously contrived machinery of the 1890s. The reconstructed one-room schoolhouse nearby is open in season.
EMINENCE, MO - . Access is at the Mo. 19 bridge in Eminence.
LITTLE SHAWNEE CREEK - The camping area is on the flat near this tributary. The campground just upstream on the same side is private; please respect property rights of landowners.