Horsepower limits and a complete motor ban approved for Missouri’s Ozark National Scenic Riverway have yet to be enacted

Horsepower limits and a complete motor ban approved for Missouri’s Ozark National Scenic Riverway have yet to be enacted, which has the Sierra Club making waves about enforcement.

The National Park Service’s 2015 general management plan prohibits the use motorized boats of any horsepower on a 35-mile stretch of the Current River and 33 miles on the Jacks Fork River from April through September. A current limit on motors 25hp and below upstream and 40hp downstream is not currently enforced, according to the Sierra Club Missouri Chapter.

The area is a popular tourist destination for float trips, canoeing and kayakers.

“From just the economic standpoint, it would make sense to enforce these horsepower limits so that there’d be more tourism benefit coming from those kayakers and floaters,” Marisa Frazier, Ozarks conservation program coordinator with the Sierra Club Missouri told Public News Service, adding that boat motors disrupt the natural habitat and people’s enjoyment of the park’s quiet serenity.

A recent National Park Service report found 1.3 million people visited the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in 2018 and spent more than US$55m in communities near the park.

Sierra Club Missouri director John Hickey, said the upper stretches of the rivers are shallow which naturally kept motorised traffic to a minimum, but new engine technology allows people to venture into shallower water. Hickey said recently, friends witnessed a speeding boat flip when it hit a half-submerged log in a shallow part of the Current River.

“It tells you what’s happening, that on this river – and this is relatively narrow part where the river is belly button deep, maybe – there’s people who are riding boats fast enough that you can flip them upside down,” he said.

Russ Runge, deputy superintendent of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, says the park has been collaborating with the Midwest regional office to ensure the rules are clear and enforceable.

“It’s a lengthy process and this is a particularly sensitive subject to a lot of folks,” he said. “So, we need to make sure that it is accurate and 100%.”