Float, Fish, Hike, or Ride

Nothing sounds better for a weekend getaway in July than a trip to the Missouri Ozarks. Plenty of crystal-clear, cold spring water in the Current and Jacks Fork rivers is reason enough to head south for a float trip — or one of dozens of other things to see and do in the area.

Eminence is a good central point for your Ozark explorations. This historic river town, established in 1868 on the banks of the Jacks Fork River, is right in the middle of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. With multiple outfitters and easy access to both the Current and Jacks Fork rivers, it’s no wonder Eminence is often called the floating capital of Missouri.

Floating is just one of the many things to do. Horseback riding is a big draw, with cross-country trails throughout the riverways and beyond. Anglers tackle the many fishing opportunities, while hikers lace up their boots and head for the Ozark Trail. Shoppers enjoy the flea markets and antique shops.

Nature lovers might opt for looking for elk at Peck Ranch or wild horses at Shawnee Fields, while history lovers will head for Alley Spring and its iconic red mill. Swimming, camping, bird watching — you name it and you can probably do it here in the heart of the Ozarks, where Instagram-worthy photo opportunities abound.

Be sure to stop by Shannon County Museum on Main Street, about a block south of the courthouse, to browse the historical displays. This volunteer-run organization offers special events throughout the year. Summer brings Pickin’ and Jammin’ every other Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Upcoming dates include July 13 and 27, Aug. 10 and 24.

If visiting wineries is your passion, check out Viandel Vineyard or Horst Vineyards in nearby Mountain View.

The dining scene in Eminence is mostly casual, which reflects the river lifestyle. From Dos Rios Mexican Grill to Martin’s Country Cafe, with Ruby’s, Ozark Orchard, SD Steakhouse and Blackwell Inn Bistro in between, there’s enough variety to fit most tastes and budgets. Be sure to stop at the Dairy Shack, a summertime tradition, for burgers, shakes or ice cream cones.

After dining al fresco at the Dairy Shack, you might stroll up the hill past the stoplight to take a close-up look at the elk statue and the mural on the retaining wall alongside Highway 19. The 212-foot mural was painted in 2017, just months after that spring’s devastating flood, by Colorado artist Wade Collins, with help from his wife, Twyla, and several students from the Eminence High School art classes.

The mural was commissioned prior to the flood to highlight Shannon County as the Elk Capital of Missouri, but after the flood, it grew to represent much more. Touchstones of the community and county — Peck Ranch elk, the red mill at Alley Spring, the wild horses of Shannon County, the Jacks Fork River and Rocky Falls — are incorporated in the scene along with trail riders, paddlers, swimmers, hunters, anglers and wildlife.

Where you decide to sleep may depend partly on what you want to do while you’re here. There are plenty of lodging options, from motels to cabins to B&Bs or camping. River’s Edge, Shady Lane, Riverside and Eagle’s Landing offer motel rooms as well as cabins with river access. A variety of B&Bs and rental cottages are available. There are several campgrounds, both private and park service, as well as horse camps with stalls and RV hookups. Or you might choose to sleep under the stars on a gravel bar as part of a multi-day float trip.

About 14 miles north of Eminence is one of Missouri’s newest state parks, Echo Bluff State Park, on Sinking Creek. It offers lodging, dining, park programs and plenty of outdoor activities.

Be forewarned that you might fall in love with Shannon County. As signs around town say, “Welcome to Eminence. Come for a day, stay for a lifetime.”

For general information about Eminence and the area, go to www.visiteminence.com.
For current information about museum programs, check Shannon County Museum on Facebook.
For details about Ozark National Scenic Riverways events and facilities, visit www.nps.gov/ozar.

Leave a Reply