Summer safety at Ozark National Scenic Riverways

With summer upon us and temperatures rising, visitors enjoying the cool, clear waters of the Jacks Fork and Current rivers are encouraged to stay safe by remembering a few key safety tips.

At Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the  “A,B,C’s” of river safety are important for everyone on the water:

• Always wear your life jacket! It only works if you wear it. Children under age 7 are required by law to wear them, but everyone is encouraged to keep them on when enjoying the river.

• Bottom down, feet up! If you fall out of your vessel, do not try to stand up in fast water. Instead, float with your bottom down and feet up until you reach calm, shallow water.

• Climb that rootwad! Never try to go through a “strainer.” Give it as much room as possible, but if you find yourself being forced into a strainer that cannot be avoided, try to climb on top of it. 

Be sure to scan the river ahead of you for obstacles to give yourself time to react, especially if you are floating on a tube, which can be harder to maneuver. 

River currents and obstacles can be a tricky combination.

In addition:

• Obtain current weather forecasts and river information before you go. Weather conditions can change quickly and can be dangerous. 

Watch the sky for sudden weather fronts or isolated severe storms, which can bring unexpected high winds or flash flooding. Up-to-date river levels can be viewed online at

• Practice situational awareness at all times. Understand your surroundings, including any natural hazards you could experience, and prepare for them.  

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• Remember Ozark National Scenic Riverways is a free-flowing river system. There are often obstacles beneath the surface, such as submerged rocks or trees, which may not be fully visible from the riverbank, a jet boat, or floating vessels.

• Avoid tying tubes, canoes, kayaks or rafts together. Large flotillas are dangerous and illegal. They are harder to maneuver, can block the river channel for other visitors, and can increase the chances of drowning if someone becomes trapped beneath.

• Consume alcoholic beverages responsibly.

• Leave a detailed itinerary behind with a friend or family member if you are planning an overnight float trip or hiking excursion.

• Check the park’s Facebook page for river closures or important safety messages. Follow @ozarkriverways on Facebook.

• If you need help during an emergency and have phone service available, call park dispatch at (844) 460-3604. Dispatch operators are available 24 hours per day.  

Visitors are encouraged to save this number in their cell phones prior to visiting.

“Visitor safety is our top priority at Ozark National Scenic Riverways,” said Larry Johnson, park superintendent. “Regardless of how many times you have been on these rivers, understand that they are always changing and conditions may be different than the last time you visited.  

“Be prepared for this and plan accordingly. We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable experience in the park.”

If you’d like to learn more about floating the rivers safely, consider signing up for a paddling clinic, conducted on Sundays throughout the summer.  

Contact Round Spring Visitor Center at (573) 323-8093 for more information and to register in advance.

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