Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Two rivers that include Texas County in their drainage basins were the first to be Congressionally designated as national scenic riverways, in the early 1960s. The Current and Jacks Fork rivers are renowned for clear waters and high gradients, making them attractive to recreationists. Some 134 miles along their collective courses are protected in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, where visitors canoe, hike and---with the proper permits---explore underground caves. The National Park Service-administered unit is also famous for the greatest concentration of first-magnitude springs---those generating more than 65 million gallons of daily water flow---in the world.
The Current River
The 184-mile Current River is born at the confluence of Pigeon Creek and outflow of the Montauk Spring complex in southern Missouri, and flows southeastward and southward to Arkansas's Black River. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Current's watershed encompasses an elevation range of some 1,200 feet. The most prevalent ecological community within the basin is the dolomite glade, a slope forest opening founded on dolomite bedrock. Among the many springs along its course is Big Spring, one of the largest anywhere; this subterranean reservoir channels about 278 million gallons of water into the Current every day. The U.S. Geological Survey reports the astounding statistic that Big Spring's discharge would flood St. Louis's Busch Stadium in around 33 hours.
The Jacks Fork
One of the Current's major tributaries is the Jacks Fork, which empties into it near Eminence, Missouri. Indeed, the basin of the 65-mile Jacks Fork comprises some 18 percent of the Current's watershed. At its mouth, the Jacks Fork has an average flow of 466 cubic feet per second. Its watershed contains a great density of caves and high-quality dolomite glades. One of its tributaries, Barn Hollow Creek, is notable for impressive dolomite cliffs, deep pools and beaver ponds, features protected at the Barn Hollow Natural Area near the Texas/Howell County line.
Another Notable Stream
The 110-mile Big Piney River is another prominent drainage in Texas County, heading near Cabool and flowing mainly northward to the Gasconade River. Its 755-square-mile watershed sees some of the higher precipitation in the state, ranging from 32 to 48 inches. A four-mile portion of the Big Piney has been designated the Horseshoe Bend Natural Area, 69 acres of sheer bluffs and a mosaic of bottomland and upland forests of oak, pine and other species. The natural area lies near the city of Houston.