50 years as a National Park Service concessioner

A lifetime commitment to the Riverways for Darrel Blackwell

By William Terry

VAN BUREN, Mo. — Ozark National Scenic Riverways is a special place. Indeed, it boasts the first two protected rivers in our nation and some of the most spectacular natural and cultural resources found anywhere. 

But some of the most precious resources are the people who have chosen to spend their lives here. 

There are countless stories flowing through the hills and hollers that make up the Ozarks. Some are true, some are partly true, and some don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Many of these stories and the people that make them up are intertwined with the Riverways, such that the two can’t be separated. 

One such story is that of Darrel Blackwell.

It’s not often that someone or something can be considered “one of a kind.” However, in the case of Darrel Blackwell, you have just that. 

This past January marked 50 years since Darrel purchased Jadwin Canoe Rental and became a concessioner for the National Park Service (NPS). 

Darrel (far left) and his staff at Jadwin Canoe Rental in earlier days.

While that is a great accomplishment in and of itself, it does not paint the full picture of the relationship between Darrel Blackwell and Ozark National Scenic Riverways. 

Darrel worked four summers as a park ranger for the NPS in the early days of the park’s establishment. In addition, a portion of his family’s farm was acquired through eminent domain during the creation of the park. 

To our knowledge, Darrel Blackwell is the only person along the Riverways to have these three distinct experiences. It’s possible that no one in the history of the NPS shares these three same experiences, either. 

Recently, Riverways Chief of Maintenance William Terry, who grew up in Jadwin, sat down to catch up with Darrel about reaching his 50-year milestone as a park concessioner.

William has used many of Darrel’s own words to share his unique and true story with you.

Darrel Blackwell grew up in the community of Rector, Missouri, in northern Shannon County with his father Wayne, mother Iceline, and brother Charlie. 

Wayne was a hard-working farmer, and Iceline was a teacher at the local schoolhouse. Wayne managed two farms, one in Rector where the family lived and the other along Current River across from present day Pulltite.

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