Ozark Plateau

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The Saint Francois Mountains , seen from Knob Lick Mountain , Missouri , are the geological heart of the Ozarks
The Ozark Plateau and its main regions
Relief map of the Ozark Plateau

The Ozark Plateau (also known as the Ozarks , Ozark Mountains, or Ozarks Mountain Country ) is a physiogeographically , geologically, and culturally uniform highland region in the central United States . It occupies the southern half of Missouri and much of the northwest and central northern portions of Arkansas , and extends into northeastern Oklahoma as well as the extreme southeast of Kansas .

Although sometimes referred to as the Ozark Mountains, the area is a high and deeply cut plateau . From a geological point of view, it is an extensive bulge around the Saint Francois Mountains . The Ozark Plateau covers an area of ​​nearly 122,000 km² and is by far the largest mountain region between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains . Together with the Ouachita Mountains , it forms the so-called US Interior Highlands and is often mentioned in the same breath as the Ouachita Mountains. For example, the Ozark Mountain Forests ecoregion also includes the Ouachitas south of the Boston Mountains and the Arkansas River valley , although neither are normally considered part of the Ozarks.

Origin of name

The origin of the name is the subject of speculation.

"Ozarks" is probably derived from the English pronunciation of the French short form "Aux Arks" for " aux Arkansas " ("to Arkansas"). This phrase refers to the original trading post at Arkansas Post , located in the forested lowlands of the Arkansas Delta is, above the mouth of the White River into the Mississippi River . "Arkansas" was apparently the French version of the name Quapaw used by the tribe of the Illinoiswek , who lived in the area of ​​the trading post upstream of the Mississippi.

Another possible derivation is " aux arcs " ( "the bends"), a reference to the frequently occurring in the territory of the Ozarks, by erosion formed natural bridges and caves collapsed. Two examples of such phenomena are Clifty Hollow Natural Bridge , a series of arches in Missouri, and Alum Cove in Ozark-St. Francis National Forest .

Another theory is the origin of the term “ aux arcs ” as an abbreviation of “ aux arcs-en-ciel ” (French for “to the rainbows”), which are a common sight in the mountainous regions.

From the described “Aux Arks” , the word “Ozarks emerged in the decades before the French and Indian War and eventually developed into a name for the entire plateau that drains into the Arkansas and Missouri Rivers . For example, after the Louisiana Purchase, the higher-lying regions were assigned the word “Ozark” by American travelers, such as “Ozark Mountains” and “Ozark Forests”. In the 20th century the term “Ozarks” finally found its way into the general vocabulary.


Boston Mountains in the Arkansas Ozarks

The Ozark Plateau consists of four major physiogeographic regions: the Springfield Plateau , the Salem Plateau , the Saint Francois Mountains, and the Boston Mountains. The topography is mostly gently undulating, with the exception of the Boston Mountains, the steep step between the Springfield and Salem Plateau and in the rough terrain of the Saint Francois Mountains.

In the limestones of the Springfield Plateau, and especially in the dolomitic rocks of the Salem Plateau and the Boston Mountains, karst phenomena such as karst springs , sinkholes , ponors and caves are common. Big Spring in the Missouri Ozarks is one of the largest springs in the United States, pouring 1 million cubic meters of water per day into the Current River . Missouri is also known as the "cave state", with its 6,000 known caves it is only behind Tennessee . Most of these Missouri caves are in the Ozarks.

The aquifer of the Ozark Plateau is a large, contiguous groundwater reservoir in Ordovician to Devonian limestones, dolomites and sandstones that are widespread outside the igneous rocks of the Saint Francois Mountains. Especially in limestones and dolomites Missouri form unique to the Ozark Plateau, rocky glades , mainly on slopes on thin topsoil grasses and tall herb plants contribute in an otherwise densely wooded area.

The Boston Mountains are the highest part of the Ozark Plateau, their peaks reach heights of just over 780 m, the valleys are 150 to 450 m lower. Turner Ward Knob in western Newton County (Arkansas) is the highest named peak at 751 m. Slightly higher are five nearby nameless heights that reach or just exceed 780 m.

The chain of the Saint Francois Mountains rises in the east over the Ozark plateau, it is the geological heart of the arched highlands. Their igneous and volcanic rocks are the remnants of a Precambrian to Cambrian mountains. The eroded core of these mountains jutted out of the sea as an island in the Paleozoic , so that remains of coral reefs can be found in the sedimentary layers . In these Riffbauten accumulated rich collected later by metal-leading solutions lead - zinc - ores , which have long been, and still exploited today. The igneous and volcanic rocks are widespread at depth under a thin blanket of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks and form the basement of the entire region.

The waters of the Ozark Plateau

Big Spring in the Missouri Ozarks is one of the largest springs in the United States

The creation of the lakes by the United States Army Corps of Engineers , which began in 1911 with the damming of the White River to Lake Taneycomo , established a considerable economic factor along the border of Missouri and Arkansas with its tourist boat tours and fishing opportunities. A total of six reservoirs were established through the construction of dams in the White River between 1911 and 1960 . Lake Sequoyah, dating from 1961, is a small fishing and recreational lake east of Fayetteville, Arkansas , and is the topmost of the White River's reservoirs. Downstream of Lake Sequoyah and northeast of Fayetteville is Beaver Lake, built in 1960 . The White River continues its northeast directed course into Table Rock Lake (1958) in Missouri, which drains directly into Lake Taneycomo, which was built in 1913. From there, the White River bends southeast to Arkansas, where it forms Bull Shoals Lake, which was built in 1952 on the border between Arkansas and Missouri . This is the most downstream reservoir in the actual course of the White River. Lake Norfork, which was dammed up in 1941, is not located in the White River itself, but contains the waters of the North Fork River , a tributary of the White River.

In the north of the Ozark Plateau are the reservoirs Lake of the Ozarks , Pomme de Terre Lake and Truman Lake , which were created in 1931, 1961 and 1979 by the damming of the Osage River and its tributary Pomme de Terre River . Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma was dammed in 1940. In 1969 a dam was built in the Sac River valley near Stockton, Missouri , which led to the formation of Stockton Lake , which through a pipeline contributes to the water supply of Springfield, Missouri . Most of the dams were built not only to regulate floods, but also to generate electricity.

The creation of the lakes changed the landscape of the Ozark Plateau and had a significant impact on the traditional culture of the Ozarks due to the necessary relocation. Before the dams were built, the settlements, farms and mills were located in the river valleys and along the waters to use them for drinking water and hydropower. Many agricultural roads, river bridges, and even railroad lines were lost when the water came and disrupted rural transportation and trade. The Buffalo River , Elk River , Current River and Eleven Point River still offer impressions of the original landscape in the valleys of White River and Osage .

Big Sugar Creek in Southwest Missouri

The Buffalo River was designated in 1972 by the Congress of the United States as the first of the " National Rivers " of the USA, it is administered by the National Park Service . In Missouri, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways were created in 1964 along the Current River and Jacks Fork River . Although it is not a "National River", it is the first national park in the United States to be based on a river system. The Eleven Point River is part of the National Wild and Scenic Riverways System . Together, these river parks draw approximately 1.5 million visitors to the least populated areas of Arkansas and Missouri each year.

In Missouri, the Gasconade Rivers , Big Piney and Niangua Rivers run in the central north, and the Meramec River and its tributaries Huzzah Creek and Courtois Creek are in the northeast of the Ozark Plateau. The Black River and St. Francis River mark the eastern arc of the Ozark Plateau. In south-central Missouri are the James River , Spring River, and North Fork River; the Spring River and its tributary Center Creek form the central western boundary of the Ozark Plateau from Missouri through Kansas to Oklahoma. Grand Falls, the largest natural waterfall in Missouri, tumbles over a step of shale pebbles to form cliffs and cliffs at Shoal Creek in south Joplin. All of these river systems are seasonally intensively used for recreational purposes, including the Elk River in southwest Missouri and its tributary Big Sugar Creek .

The streams and rivers of the Ozark Plateau are typically clear waters that flow through the forests past limestone cliffs, their water flow is secured by tributaries in the river or stream bed and many springs. Gravel banks are common on shallow banks, while rocky banks have deep holes in the river bed. Apart from periods of heavy rainfall and during the melting of the snow, their level of difficulty is not too high for canoeists and rafters .

Fish farms are frequent due to the abundance of springs and bodies of water. The National Fish Farm of Neosho was established in 1888 and was the first state fish farm. The Missouri Department of Conservation maintains numerous hot and cold water farms and trout parks, and private operations like that of Rockbridge, Missouri, are also not uncommon.


Natural resources

The Ozark Plateau has minable natural resources, namely lead, zinc, barite and iron ores . Many of the deposits of these mineral resources have already been mined in the past. However, many supplies remain and are mined in what is known as the "lead belt" in south-central Missouri. In the course of the economic history of the Saint Francois Mountains region as well as in the triangle of the states Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, lead-zinc ores have played an important role as a metal supplier. Mining techniques from the early 20th century left significant subsidence and heavy metal contamination in the soil and groundwater. Oil is sought and extracted in the Oklahoma Ozarks and in the eastern half of the Boston Mountains in Arkansas.


Cattle breeding for meat production and the production of milk products is widespread in the region. The marketing of milk products is normally organized on a cooperative basis, with the individual dairy farmers selling their products to a central dealer who packs and sells them under a common product name.

food industry

Poultry farming and food processing are other important industries in the region. Examples of large poultry farms and food processing companies include Tyson Foods and ConAgra Foods , which operate numerous facilities in the Ozarks. Schreiber Foods , the world's largest privately owned cheese maker, operates across southern Missouri. Stillwell Foods produces frozen vegetables and other foods in eastern Oklahoma. Commercial agriculture and food processing are increasing chemical and biological pollutants in the waters of the Ozark Plateau, threatening water supplies and native animal and plant species.


Most of the Ozark Plateau is forested, mostly oak and hickory . Both soft and hard woods are grown by private and public forest owners and have long been an important pillar of the economy. Virginian juniper is also common , while pine species are common in the south . Less than a quarter of the area was cleared for pastures and arable land. The forest areas that were intensively exploited at the beginning and the middle of the 20th century have recovered today. Nonetheless, deforestation has contributed to the accumulation of gravel banks in bodies of water as a result of erosion in areas managed by the forest industry, at the same time river beds have become wider and shallower, and habitats for fish from deeper water have been lost.

During the New Deal period , the Civilian Conservation Corps employed hundreds of workers building nearly 400 fire towers across the Ozarks. 121 of these are known in Arkansas and 257 in Missouri, about half of which still exist today, and many of them are used by the United States Forest Service .

Mill economy

The region's numerous rivers and streams provided locations for hundreds of sawmills and gristmills. Mills were centers of culture and trade. Widely scattered within the region, they served to meet local needs and in many cases thrived even when the nearest mill was only a few kilometers away. Few of the Ozark mills relied on simple, low-efficiency waterwheels ; most had a mill pond with a channel and a water-powered turbine .


Today tourism is the most important growth industry in the Ozarks, as shown by the development of the entertainment center of Branson, Missouri .

Transportation industry

The transportation industry is important to the regional economy. Several nationally operating freight forwarders are located in the region, including JB Hunt and Prime, Inc. Springfield is a central transshipment point for BNSF Railway. From small family-owned sawmills to large commercial corporations, the logging and lumber industries are also important to the Ozark economy. Some of the Fortune 500 companies such as Wal-Mart and Leggett & Platt were founded here and are still represented locally today.

The culture of the Ozark Plateau

The term Ozark refers not only to a landscape, but also to its population with a particular culture , architecture and a dialect spoken by the people who live on the plateau. The traditional culture of the Ozark Plateau is a mix similar to that prevalent in Appalachia (region of the Appalachians and north of them) and the Upland South (region west of the Appalachians) and also resembles that of the Midwest. Early settlers in Missouri were American, followed by Irish and German immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s. Much of the population of the Ozark Plateau is of German and Scottish-Irish descent, often mixed with Native American ancestors, and many of the local families have lived on the Ozark Plateau since the 19th century.

As in the Appalachians, the religion on the Ozark Plateau was predominantly Baptist and Methodist during the early period of settlement , while today it is socially conservative or congregationalist , with Assemblies of God , Southern Baptists and other Protestant Pentecostal movements being represented. In the 1970s, settled communities in the rural areas, and some only represented in the Ozarks sects are found here. Roman Catholic Christians are rare outside the cities, they are mainly German Catholics and residents of areas that were mainly populated by French immigrants, such as Washington County (Missouri) .

Settlements in rural areas are designed as single homesteads rather than grouping in villages. The early settlers supplemented their livelihoods with hunting, fishing, trapping, and other types of foraging. Today, hunting and fishing are common recreational activities and an important part of the tourism industry. It is common to collect mushrooms , especially morels and belly mushrooms , and the collection of herbs for traditional medicine - here, for example, real St. John's wort and American ginseng - is financially supported by large buyers in the region. Other cargoes are pokeweed , watercress , honey apple , numerous wild berries such as blackberries , raspberries , mulberries , wild cherry and wild strawberry as well as many kinds of nuts, such as black walnut , hickory and acorns . Edible legumes , wild grasses, and wildflowers are diverse, and beekeeping is widespread.

The culture of the Ozarks is widely referred to in books, magazines and on radio and television. Where the Red Fern Grows and Shepherd of the Hills are books set in the Ozarks. Ozark Jubilee , the first national country music show , originated in Springfield in 1955 and was broadcast by ABC under various names during the 1960s . Exhibitions on the traditional way of life on the Ozark Plateau are the two family theme parks in Silver Dollar City and the now closed Dogpatch USA , plus the amusement park in Branson.

Traditional Ozark culture includes stories and tunes that have been passed down orally from generation to generation at community music festivals and other informal events. Square dance was an important social event well into the 20th century. Such dances always originated wherever people gathered around sawmills and in lumberjack camps, as well as in geographically isolated communities where their own dance melodies and variations developed. Of all the traditional musicians in the Ozarks, it was above all the fiddler who held a special place in the community and in folklore . Citizens revered fiddlers for playing local tunes, while traveling fiddlers brought new tunes and fresh entertainment, although many citizens viewed their arrival as a threat to public morality.

The folklorist Vance Randolph collected the oral literature of the Ozarks. He wrote the national bestseller Pissing in the Snow and Other Ozark Folktales (University of Illinois Press, 1976) and Ozark Folksongs (University of Missouri Press, 1980), a four-volume anthology of regional songs and ballads. The anecdotes of the oral tradition of the Ozarks are mostly quite crude and full of wild embellishments of everyday topics. The University of Arkansas Press and Gershon Legman published two volumes of previously unpublishable folklore from Randolph's collection in 1992, entitled Roll Me in Your Arms and Blow the Candle Out.

The Ozarks were the location of the award-winning independent film Winter's Bone (with Jennifer Lawrence , director: Debra Granik ) from 2010, based on the literary source by US author Daniel Woodrell .

Ozark is also a Netflix series starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney , in which a middle-class family from Chicago flees from a Mexican drug cartel to the vacation region of the Ozarks to launder millions of dollars from illegal businesses.

Web links

Commons : Ozark Mountains  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ George R. Stewart: Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States. 137. Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1967.
  2. ^ Vance Randolph: The Ozarks: An American Survival of Primitive Society . New York: The Vanguard Press, p. 14, 1931.
  3. ^ Morris S. Arnold: Unequal Laws Unto a Savage Race: European Legal Traditions in Arkansas, 1686-1836 . University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville 1985
  4. ^ Morris S. Arnold: Colonial Arkansas 1686-1804: A Social and Cultural History . University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville 1991.
  5. ^ E. Joan Wilson Miller: The naming of the land in the Arkansas Ozarks: A study in culture processes. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 59, No. 2, pp. 240-251, 1969. doi : 10.1111 / j.1467-8306.1969.tb00668.x
  6. ^ Conor Watkins: Ozarks geology: Clifty Creek Natural Area includes natural bridge. ( Memento of the original from February 4, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. The Ozarks Chronicle, Rolla, Missouri @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.theozarkschronicle.com
  7. Lynn Morrow: Ozark / Ozarks: Establishing a Regional Term . In: White River Valley Historical Quarterly . 36, No. 2, 1996. Retrieved September 8, 2006.
  8. ^ Margot Ford McMillen: A to Z Missouri: The Dictionary of Missouri Place Names. ( English ). Pebble Publishing, Columbia, Missouri 1996, ISBN 0-9646625-4-X .
  9. Scott House: Fact Sheet on 6000 Caves ( English ) The Missouri Speleological Survey, Inc. May 14, 2005. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Information: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved March 16, 2008. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.mospeleo.org
  10. ^ Rafferty, Milton: The Ozarks as a Region: A Geographer's Description. OzarksWatch, Vol. I, No. 4, 1988.
  11. a b Project Tour - A quick visit to the Ozarks Stream Geomorphology Project. United States Geological Survey
  12. ^ Ground Water Atlas of the United States: Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. United States Geological Survey
  13. Stewart Ware: Rock Outcrop Plant Communities (Glades) in the Ozarks: A Synthesis. The Southwestern Naturalist, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 585-597, 2002. ( Abstract )
  14. AG Unklesbay, Jerry D. Vineyard: Missouri Geology - Three Billion Years of Volcanoes, Seas, Sediments, and Erosion. University of Missouri Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8262-0836-3
  15. Stephen K. Boss, Vanessa M. Heil-Chapdelaine: Mapping Landscape Change: An Historic and Bathymetric Study of Lake Sequoyah, Washington County, Arkansas
  16. http://www.nps.gov/ozar Ozark National Scenic Riverways
  17. National Wild and Scenic Riverways System: Eleven Point River, Missouri ( Memento of the original from October 6, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.rivers.gov
  18. ^ MS Panfil, RB Jacobson: Hydraulic Modeling of In-channel Habitats in the Ozark Highlands of Missouri: Assessment of Physical Habitat Sensitivity to Environmental Change. United States Geological Survey - Biological Resources Division.
  19. Missouri Department of Conservation: Missouri Fish Hatcheries and Trout Parks ( Memento of the original from August 18, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / mdc.mo.gov
  20. http://www.watersheds.org/outdoors/recreation.htm A Tour of Rockbridge Hatchery , watershed.org
  21. ^ Raymond Lasmanis: Tri-State and Viburnum Trend Districts. Rocks & Minerals, November 1997
  22. GeoKansas: Lead and Zinc Mining. ( Memento of the original from July 6, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Kansas Geological Survey @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.kgs.ku.edu
  23. ^ Missouri Department of Conservation: Ozark Cavefish
  24. Research Project: Poultry Manure Management To Reduce Non-Point Source Pollution Phosphorus. United States Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service.
  25. ^ BE Haggard, PA Moore Jr., I. Chaubey and EH Stanley: Nitrogen and Phosphorus Concentrations and Export from an Ozark Plateau Catchment in the United States. Biosystems Engineering, Vol. 86, No. 1, pp. 75-85, 2003, doi : 10.1016 / S1537-5110 (03) 00100-4 .
  26. ^ Missouri Water Quality Report: 2006. Missouri Department of Natural Resources: Water Protection Program. April 2007
  27. ^ Primary Distinguishing Characteristics of Level III Ecoregions of the Continental United States. US Environmental Protection Agency as of April 2000.
  28. Arkansas Fire Lookouts , Forest Fire Lookout Association ( Memento of the original from November 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.firelookout.org
  29. Missouri Fire Lookouts , Forest Fire Lookout Association ( Memento of the original from November 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.firelookout.org
  30. ^ Index to the old mills of Missouri . This website, maintained by rootsweb, has a non-exhaustive list of 250 old mills in Missouri alone.
  31. George E. Suggs, Jr .: Water Mills of the Missouri Ozarks. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1990
  32. Milton D. Rafferty: The Ozarks: Land and Life. University of Arkansas Press, 2nd Edition, 2001. ISBN 1-55728-714-7
  33. Jan Phillips: Wild Edibles of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, 2nd edition 1998. Cover picture, introduction, acknowledgment ( memento of the original from April 10, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 744 kB); Color tables ( Memento of the original from April 10, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 1.5 MB). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / mdc4.mdc.mo.gov @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / mdc4.mdc.mo.gov
  34. Old-Time Fiddling: A Traditional Folk Art With Four Ozark Musicians , Bittersweet, Vol. 9, No. 3, 1982. Adaptation and photography by Allen Gage
  35. Julie Henigan: Play Me Something Quick and Devilish: Bob Holt - Old-Time Square Dance Fiddler. Musical Traditions, Article MT021, June 1998
  36. Vic Smith: Review of Ozark Folksongs. Musical Traditions, January 2001.

Coordinates: 37 ° 11 ′  N , 92 ° 31 ′  W