Driftwood Outdoors: Underrated fall getaway, the Ozarks provide a bevy of recreational opportunities

Pictured: The Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas offer endless outdoor opportunities to enjoy this fall. Submitted PHOTO
Pictured: The Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas offer endless outdoor opportunities to enjoy this fall. Submitted photo

Fall is the best time of year to experience the natural resources and countless outdoor recreational opportunities of the Ozark Mountains.

Camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, biking, wildlife viewing and bird watching are just a few pastimes drawing folks from all across the world to southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

The float streams coursing through the Ozark Mountains draw the attention of hundreds of thousands of paddlers and anglers each fall. Hard-fighting fish, the appeal of dense forests changing colors and the screams of bugling bull elk are just a few of the reasons the Ozarks are so enchanting.

The Current, Jacks Fork, Eleven Point, Black, Bourbeuse, Big Piney, Huzzah, Niangua, North Fork, James and Meramec are gorgeous rivers and creeks flowing through Missouri’s wild and scenic landscape. Arkansas is home to the White, Norfolk, Crooked Creek, Little Red, and perhaps the granddaddy of them all, the Buffalo River.

Dry Run Creek is a special, must-fish destination for children under age 15.

Each of these waters offers breathtaking scenery and sporting pursuits most don’t expect to find in the southern stretches of the Midwest. Crystal clear spring-fed waters teem with trout, smallmouth bass and goggle-eye. Wild turkeys and white-tailed deer abound along these riverbanks.

Bald eagles, black bears, elk, wild horses and river otters all make frequent appearances as well.

In my opinion, the rivers of the Ozarks are some of the most pristine and precious water resources found anywhere in the world.

The Ozark Scenic National Riverways (OSNR) was the first national park in America to protect a river system. The Current and Jacks Fork Rivers comprise the 84,000-acre Ozark Scenic National Riverways (OSNR).

The treasures of this region should draw people from all across the country, much like the way Yellowstone and the Great Smoky Mountains draw tourists. However, in the fall, hikers and hunters can find solitude in the forest and floaters have long stretches of river to themselves.

The Ozarks offer outdoorsmen all they could possibly desire, and are within an easy one-day drive of anywhere in Indiana.

Echo Bluffs on Sinking Creek is a brand new magnificent Missouri state park, adding just one more reason to visit the Ozarks.

The reintroduced elk are making great progress. Rural communities like Ellington, Eminence, Van Buren and Winona in Missouri, and Jasper, Ponca and Harrison in Arkansas are proud to have these majestic creatures once again roaming their regions — not only because it makes sense biologically but also because the elk are a big tourism draw for these small towns of the Ozarks. And they are magnificent to watch and listen to.

Missouri Ozark stream fishing is truly world-renowned. Smallmouth bass are one of the hardest-fighting freshwater fish you can find, and we have them all over the Ozarks.

Fly fishermen can forget about chasing 6-inch rainbows in the West. Chasing smallies on an Ozark river is more exciting and much less crowded. The trout fishing is exceptional, too.

Big browns haunt the White River, Norfork and upper Current River, and both the Eleven Point and North Fork of the White put up big numbers of rainbows.

There are many more reasons to visit the Ozarks in the fall. Horseback riding is a fun adventure. There are many stables offering horseback trips and rentals in the Eminence, Missouri area, which is considered a horseback riding capital of the Midwest.

Hiking any section of the nearly 400 miles of the Ozark Trail is another great adventure for individuals or groups.

Fall is the best time to take advantage of all the incredible outdoor opportunities found in the Ozark Mountains. Big browns are running up stream, smallmouth are biting, the leaves are changing, elk are bugling and so much more. If you are looking to get away for a long weekend this fall, the Ozark Mountains should be high on your list of places to visit.

Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at djsports@dailyjournal.