The lifeblood of the interior Ozarks for generations has been the magnificent White River. Named by Spanish explorers "Rio Blanco" for its foaming whitewater shoals, the river has been a source of marvelous beauty and sustenance since human beings first encountered it.
The crystal-clear waters of the White flow from their origins in the high Boston Mountains of Arkansas northward into Missouri, make a wide loop, then finally turn back south to take a winding course again into Arkansas and on to the Mississippi River. The northern-most loop in Missouri is called the Upper White River Valley, and it's here that Branson is located.
The White flows wider and swifter than most Missouri waterways and is extermely rich in pioneer history. Explorer Henry Schoolcraft described the river in his Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw, Performed in the Years 1818 and 1819:
"As the boats floated along, great beauty is seen in the bottom of the river, and words to describe this wonderful, ever-changing, many-hued picture are hard to find. The mirror-like river twining away in the distance, the foliage of the trees is reflected....At any point the bottom was plainly discernible. Sometimes the color ranged from pure white to dark green, through the most beautiful shades of green and white combined, or in rich coloring of brown, gray and black. Again columns in brown and gray--decorated by waving fronds of the most beautiful ferns and grasses...
"As we floated along all manner of fish were seen. Here and there darted the rainbow trout, jack salmon, buffalo, red-horse, suckers and enourmous catfish. Big fishting fellows....
"Now we were gliding swiftly by cliffs 150 feed high. Not a sound broke the stillness."
Wherever the White River runs free, Schoolcraft's picture is still true.
Contributed by Frank Shipe
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