Big Spring

photo by Jim Scheff

Big Spring, rising at the base of a sheer wall of dolomite and flowing into the fabled Current River, is the largest spring in the Ozarks and one of the largest emergences of freshwater on the continent of North America.

In the 1920ís, this spectacular natural wonder in Carter County, south of Van Buren, prompted the establishment of a great state park. This park, now incorporated as part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, includes several thousand acres of rugged and primitive backcountry. It is this remote backcountry of the Current River Hills, long protected from logging and boasting some extremely high quality Ozark forest, which combines with adjacent qualified Forest Service lands to constitute a splendid wilderness resource of more than 8000 acres. The proposed Wilderness will help protect water quality in Big Spring which is just outside the wilderness and a major tourist attraction. It is a fitting and necessary complement to the developed and historic Civilian Conservation Corps recreational facilities immediately surrounding Big Spring itself.

The terrain is typical of the Current River Hills, with a dense oak and oak pine forest. The area lies entirely within the watershed of the river and includes most of Chilton Creek, plus Chub Hollow, Kinnard Hollow, Wildhorse Hollow, and Spring Valley. Excellent views of the general area are available from the popular Skyline Drive, where there is an outstanding opportunity to provide a wilderness threshold interpretive experience. Because of the special topography of the Ozarks, there are virtually no other wilderness areas in Missouri which offer this type of accessible vista opportunity. Approximately 6 miles of Missouriís Ozark Trail traverse the area, and currently support hiking and equestrian use, which will continue under Wilderness designation. A picturesque old fire tower, reminiscent of the early days of conservation in the Ozarks, overlooks the wilderness.



photo by Jim Scheff

Most of the Park Service portion of this wilderness has not been disturbed for over 100 years and some of the white oaks and shortleaf pine are truly majestic in proportion. One tract of 345 acres is so pristine that it has been designated by the state as the Big Spring Pines Natural Area. The Park Service portion has for many years been a wildlife refuge and in winter snow cover, deer and wild turkey tracks are everywhere. Bald eagles also use the area in winter. The Park Service is evaluating the area for possible management as Wilderness in the current development of a General Management Plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The entire wilderness is within the Current and Jackís Fork Watershed Important Bird Area.

Big Spring Wilderness would be a wonderful monument to the legendary Big Spring.

Proposed Wilderness Acreage
  • 8,048 acres Total
  • 4,512 acres (Mark Twain National Forest)
  • 3,536 acres (Ozark National Scenic Riverways)

Map of Big Spring Proposed Wilderness
Map provided for reference information only. MWC is not responsible for it's accuracy.