By Don Corrigan
August is a good time to do a little nature research in the watershed of the Jacks Fork and Current River watersheds. So, I headed out to one of my favorite areas located between Round Spring and Two Rivers on the Current River in the Mark Twain National Forest.
While relaxing and looking out over the clear flowing water, I’m reminded of a painting by Thomas Hart Benton. I wrote about this painting and what it represents in my 2007 book “Show Me … Natural Wonders.”
The painting depicts a “canoeist at rest in tall grass along a meandering stream. Across the rippling water is a sand and gravel bar. Above the sandy bar is a towering bluff. Amidst all of this is Ozark flora and fauna.”
“What Thomas Hart Benton captured in that visual articulation is one of Missouri river country’s sacred places. Interestingly enough, those places exist in myriad forms and in quantity along the flowing waters of the Jacks Fork and Current rivers.
One of those sacred places exists for me on a snaky stretch of Jacks Fork, between Alley Spring and the town of Eminence. It has all the ingredients of that Benton masterpiece, plus a cave high up the bluff.
The grassy shore area across from the river bluff is always a regular stop for the “explorers” with whom I float. After miles of dipping an oar, I seek out a solitary repose – much like Benton’s lone sojourner- while the younger ones take to scaling the bluff wall to explore the prize cave.”
Resting at a favorite place, as you can see in the attached picture, I feel like I could have been the subject of a Thomas Hart Benton painting. Who knows, maybe Benton could have paddled down the same stretch of river, seen the same bluffs, and felt the same sense of awe and wonder I feel every time I visit. It is one of Missouri’s special places, one of many the Missouri river country graciously provides us.
Sure, I could take some time off and travel to other popular tourist destinations, but why, some of the most beautiful and spectacular views are only a couple of hours away from St. Louis. Virtually in our own Missouri backyards. If you haven’t experienced first-hand the tall bluffs, rocky cascades, crystal clear depths of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, I ask you, what in the world are you waiting for?