ONSR offers tips for enjoying the park with larger crowds

With summer visitation at peak levels, Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) has some suggestions for safe and enjoyable visits throughout the remainder of the summer and fall, as well as an update on programs and events for this year. 

ONSR and the surrounding communities are experiencing higher than normal visitation this summer, with many visitors discovering a new-found appreciation for outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The number of visitors using park campgrounds, visiting areas like Alley Mill and Rocky Falls, and enjoying the rivers has noticeably increased this season,” said ONSR Superintendent Jason Lott.

“While the increased appreciation for the rivers and outdoor recreation has been wonderful to see, we want to encourage everyone to have patience and courtesy toward fellow visitors, park concessioners and National Park Service staff amid larger than normal crowds. Everyone can still enjoy the rivers safely, with a little advance preparation.”

Visitors should anticipate delays getting on and off the water at busy river access points and may find that parking areas nearby are full. 

Day use areas and their associated parking, restrooms, trash receptacles and picnic areas are experiencing high use on most weekend days. 

Many of the park’s campgrounds have reached full occupancy on Friday and Saturday nights several times this season. 

In addition, phone call volume has increased considerably, which could lead to longer wait times for assistance over the phone.

When heading to the river, visitors are asked to follow directional signs and minimize loading/unloading times at access points and boat ramps to help reduce congestion and delays. 

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Planning visits for weekdays, which are typically less busy, is another option that should allow visitors to enjoy the park with smaller crowds, better availability of facilities and more opportunity to social distance. 

In areas where trash receptacles have become overfull between maintenance, visitors are encouraged to follow Leave No Trace principles and pack out any trash they take in. 

Activities and programs will continue to be conducted outdoors where social distancing can be maintained. This includes outdoor information booths at most visitor contact stations and mini-programs at access points and day use areas around the park.

The headquarters Visitor Information Center in Van Buren, Mo., is open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

The first floor of Alley Mill remains open seven days per week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with one-way visitor traffic flow. 

Round Spring Cave will remain closed for the 2020 season because the tight spaces along the tour route are not conducive to social distancing while managing visitor safety and protection of the cave resources.

Large annual special events will be suspended for this year, including Haunting in the Hills and the Big Spring Car Show and Bluegrass. 

Instead, rangers will facilitate a series of fall hikes and outdoor programs. Fall is a great time to be outdoors, enjoying a variety of activities on the rivers and trails. 

For more information about the Riverways, call (573) 323-4236; visit the park’s Facebook page or website at www.nps.gov/ozar. 

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