A schedule has been set for ranger-led themed fall hikes at parks within Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR), beginning Sept. 23 and running through Nov. 4, the Ozark Riverways Foundation has announced. All hikes have been categorized by skill level and how long and strenuous the walk is.
Some of the longer hikes offer shuttle services, and highlights include hikes with programs that may be of special interest to dog owners, children, and veterans.
Sept. 23 — First on the list is the dog-friendly B.A.R.K. Ranger Hike, a mile hike beginning at 10 a.m. Sept. 23 at the Big Spring Pavilion at Big Spring a few miles outside Van Buren, Carter County. It is categorized as an easy hike and about two hours are set aside for it.
Hikers are encouraged to bring their dogs, and after the hike all canine participants will be sworn in as ONSR "Bark Rangers" and awarded with exclusive memorabilia, officials said.
Hikers are encouraged to wear hiking boots or shoes and dogs are required to be on a six foot leash for the duration of the event.
To get to Big Spring, take east U.S. to Van Buren and take a right on Highway 99. The park will be about 4.5 miles down Highway 99.
Sept. 30 — At 10 a.m. the Middle Current Discovery Hike will begin at Powder Mill Trailhead. Six hours have been set aside for the 3-mile hike that includes exploration of the Owls Bend area and discussion of family history, settlement and local reintroduction of elk.
The route passes by heritage buildings such as the Ramsey Barn and Owls Bend Schoolhouse, and a variety of landscapes, from agricultural fields to hickory and cedar forests.
There will be a lunch break at the Ramsey Barn, about halfway through the hike, so participants are encouraged to bring a lunch and plenty of water. Sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, hats and hiking boots are also recommended.
The Powder Mill Trailhead is 13.5 miles east of Eminence, on Highway 19 in Shannon County. At Eminence, drive east on Highway 106 until you cross a bridge over the Current River, then take the first right towards the Powder Mill Campground. About a half-mile further, take another right turn to reach the parking lot next to the trailhead.
Oct. 7 — The Current River Challenge, classified as a strenuous hike, is a combination hike and float trip totaling 12 miles, beginning with two hiking sessions that are about 4 miles each, then a 4-mile float. The event itself is free, but those wishing to participate in the float trip must bring or rent floating equipment. Eight hours are set aside for the entire event, and shuttles will be available to transport hikers back to the starting points at the end of the first leg of the hike, and for those that aren't participating in the float.
The first leg of the hike will begin at 9 a.m. from Carr's Canoe Rental to Echo Bluff State Park, then leave for Current River State Park at about 11 a.m., with a lunch break at around noon. Hikers are encouraged to bring a lunch and plenty of water since refills are only available at Echo Bluff State Park, four miles into the hike.
From Current River State Park, the float trip will begin at about 1:30 p.m. and last for four miles.
Sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, hats and hiking boots are highly recommended. Anyone floating should also bring a dry bag or waterproof gear.
Oct. 21 — Two Autumn Colors hikes are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., a 1.25-mile hike to the Chilton House and a 4.5-mile hike to Klepzig Mill. Six hours are set aside for each of the hikes.
The Chilton House hike will leave from the Lesh-Williams Farm Complex, just west of Powder Mill off of Highway 106. To get there take east U.S. 60, turning north on Highway 19 at Winona then east on Highway 106 at Eminence. About two-thirds of a mile past the bridge, make a right turn onto a road that will lead to the Lesh-Williams Farm Complex. ONSR officials caution there may be a locked gate preventing public access except for those participating in the event.
Along the 1-mile trail rangers will give talks about family history, local culture, subsistence living, and elk reintroduction; the hike passes by houses, silos, cribs and other structures and is within old growth forest that is usually colorful in the fall, officials said. Hikers are encouraged to bring a lunch or snack and water and wear sunscreen, bug spray, a hat and hiking boots for both hikes.
The Klepzig Mill hike, described as "moderate," will begin at 10 a.m. at the Ozark Trail Blue Spring Trailhead. A shuttle will take hikers back to the parking area at Ozark Trail Blue Spring Trailhead. To get there, take east U.S. 60 and turn north on Highway 19 at Winona, then turn east on Highway 106 at Eminence. Continue east about 11 miles and turn right onto County Road 533. About 3 miles further, near the end of the road, there will be a fork with a bulletin board alongside the trail and participants should park there.
Highlights will be colorful foliage and unique geological features, with the Klepzig Mill located at the conclusion of the hike.
Oct. 28 — For a spooky hike at night in search of spiders, consider the child-oriented Spider Night Hike, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Alley Spring Mill.
Take east U.S. 60, turning north on Highway 19 to Eminence, then make a left turn at Highway 106, going another six miles to the mill.
Children are encouraged to attend the easy quarter-mile hike, and participants should bring a flashlight or lantern to hunt for glowing spider eyes in the darkness. Snacks, water and hiking boots or shoes are also recommended.
Nov. 4 — The Hike to Honor Veterans will conclude the series, described as easy to moderate, beginning 10 a.m. at Rocky Falls. The hike is 2.5 miles with a shuttle to the top of Steagall Mountain, or 5 miles total, and six hours are set aside for it.
It will begin with a brief flag ceremony, then follow the Ozark Trail to a shuttle available to take hikers to the top of the mountain, or they may continue the walk to the top. The trail is described as 2.5 miles each way with about 600 feet gain in elevation.
Hikers will need to bring a lunch for a break on top of Steagall Mountain and plenty of water along with the recommended sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, hats and hiking boots.
To get to Rocky Falls from east U.S. 60, take Highway 19 north at Winona, then turn right on H Highway continuing about 8.6 miles east to NN Highway. Make a right onto NN, then go another two miles making a right turn onto County Road NN-526. The turn-in to Rocky Falls will be on the left after about another third-mile.