George Kieffer / Table Rock Lake

Rivers and Lakes of the Ozarks

The James, The Montauk, The Osage. Bull Shoals. Tablerock. The names speak for themselves. The rivers and lakes of the Ozarks hold a special place in our natural heritage and in our culture.

State of the Ozarks is devoted to recording history, stories and memories as well as critical facts for the sportsman and the conservationist.

...Ozark Watersheds

by Joshua Heston

And no, that's not the same as a springhouse... or even a well house.

The official definition of watershed? “An area of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins or seas.” The shed in this word references a ridge of higher ground. Well, as I’m reckoning you already know, the Ozarks have plenty of ridges. Consequently, we have a lot of watersheds to appreciate.... and care for.

Here’s an abbreviated list: Spring River, Elk River, the Gasconade, the Bourbeuse, the Current, the Eleven Point, the West Osage, the James....

The James River watershed is part of the Arkansas River / White River / Red River system. It is a watershed mostly within the Ozark Plateau (and specifically within the Springfield and Salem plateaus). The lower reaches of the James are “impounded” by Table Rock Lake. And the tributaries?

Pearson Creek, Wilson Creek (of Wilson Creek Battlefield fame), the Finley Creek (which flows through Ozark, next to the Riverside Inn and just below Smyrna Baptist Church), Crane Creek and Flat Creek. This watershed covers 1,512 miles. That's a lot of ground to cover. And to protect.

In a visit I had with Kyle Kosovich (Longboat Outfitters), he noted, “The Ozark stream systems are very fragile. In Karst topography, the limestone offers no filtration. Pollution can pass through and into the streams very easily.”

“For a long time, the septic systems being put in weren't being done correctly. And in our soil (or lack thereof) they would fail. Failing septic systems is a Karst topography is a very bad thing. The wastewater gets introduced directly into ground water, which is our drinking water.”

Good stewardship and conservation. It's not a touchy-feely, post-sixties kind of thing. No, it is a hunter, fisherman, camper, Ozarker kind of thing. It's time we all learned what that means.

— from July 25, 2010, State of the Ozarks Weekly Issue 141

Plate 1. Kieffer’s mural captures a classic hillfolk scene: hunter father, wife (or daughter?) carrying water, young boy. However, the vast, modern reservior of Table Rock Lake fills the background beneath a towering summer sky. This image is a small portion of the Ozark-themed mural near the exit of Silver Dollar City. October 19, 2008.

George Kieffer Artwork

Plate 2. Finley River (Green Bridge), Christian County, Missouri. February 25, 2009.

George Kieffer Artwork

Plate 3. Lake Taneycomo (White River), Powersite Dam, Taney County, Missouri. February 25, 2009.

Living on the James and Table Rock

by John Tilden

My family definitely lived off the land. The homestead was not good enough land to get rich. But they grew enough to survive.

I had relatives who were river guides back in the day. When Tablerock Lake came in, it really changed a lot.

It changed my farm.

Before the lake put in, my family would take their wagons across the James and go to Galena. After the lake, the river was just too deep and we had to go to Reeds Spring.

Where our property borders the water, I think of it as the James River. We're probably a couple of miles north of Cape Fair and our farm is one of four properties that, in my mind, make up a peninsula. Think of the James River as in the shape of a horseshoe.

So on one side of the farm is the James River and it is fairly narrow. On the other side of the peninsula? It definitely widens out to become more like a lake.

When I was younger, we did some canoeing. And we would fish at night for food. Great memories doing that.

The area has excellent white bass fishing. In the wintertime they stay down where it's warmer. When you hear the term “the white bass are running” it means it has warmed up enough in the spring that they leave the lake and head up river to spawn on the gravel bars.

“One time in the summer, my dad, brother, and a cousin of mine went up to the Finley River just south of Nixa and put in there. Three days later we took out at the farm.”

“The river was a good place to homestead. There's some bottomland that grows amazing watermelons. It's nice and flat by the river; then there's some very hilly country on the farm too.”

The Ozark mountains.

chinkapin oak Mike Webb Bass Pro Fisherman

The James River

(Galena, MO) “This is the James River at Galena, MO, with the old Y bridge in the distance. Many people will swim, fish, float, and camp along this beautiful river this summer, as has been done for countless seasons.

’Tis a privilege to live in The Ozarks.” — D. A. Callaway, June 13, 2015. Photo courtesy of D. A. Callaway.

Lake Taneycomo by Kelli Roberts Riley

Lake Taneycomo

(Branson, MO) “Lily is my sweet rat terrier mix rescue! She’s 13 years old and loves to swim in the lake!” shares Kelli Roberts Riley of the Cajun Connection, June 13, 2015. Photo courtesy of Kelli Roberts Riley.

Eric Snow, Fisherman

Weighing In

(Branson, MO) “Getting ready to weigh in at the Officer Pearson Benefit Tournament,” notes angler Eric Snow. “We took second. That largemouth bass was just over five pounds.” Below, is “the take-off for the White River Electric Tournament out of Theodosia on Bull Shoals Lake.” Photos courtesy of Eric Snow.

Theodosia, Missouri Tournament

Rivers & Lakes

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