Thursday, August 4, 2016

A history of recreation - OZAR

      One of the most popular uses of Ozark National Scenic Riverways is the river. Today, visitors from all across the Midwest come to the Riverways, drawn to its clear, spring fed waters. The management of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers as federal lands has allowed them to be accessible to visitors from many different backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. And logistically, floaters rely on the number of concessionaires in the park to rent canoes, kayaks, and tubes to float on.

Photos courtesy of the National Park Service
      But before the delegation of the Riverways, floating the current river was a much more of an elite ordeal. When the park was a state park in the late 1920s, concessionaires started to emerge to offer guided floating trips. Walter Bales began to offer "deluxe float trips," a service provided out of his store in Eminence, MO. Soon, he expanded his business into Bales Boating and Mercantile Company, which targeted an elite market of wealthy businessmen and politicians. Bales's fleet consisted of twelve johnboats, a store of camping gear, and a crew of river guides to conduct these trips. When a trip went on the river, a mercantile boat floated ahead of the guests, stopping at the floaters end point for the day to set up camp, which included beds and cots and prepare meals before the floaters made it down river. 

      After Bales operation, a number of concessionaires followed. And today, concessionaires offer the simple luxury of a vessel and a shuttle, and for many visitors, it is all the extra luxury that their day on the river needs.

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