The Jack’s Fork River meanders slowly through a landscape of rolling Ozark Mountains — weathered to their core by hundreds of thousands of years of natural elements. Tall limestone bluffs, stained with dark lichens, tower over the river like the granite pillars of a national monument.
Narrow short-leaf pines and thick, sturdy oaks stand tall in thin soil and a rocky foundation. On the riverbanks, dull bushy sycamores envelope green willows, and a Small Copper butterfly’s orange wings shimmer in the midday sun as it flutters across the river, hunting for insects and mates.
Large schools of minnows gather around large, mossy rocks in the clear water while large trout circle like sharks.
King Fishers, swallows and a Green Heron beat their wings as they glide gracefully and methodically up and down the river corridor, inches above the slow moving current. Two or three Turkey Vultures dry their wide wings in a tall, dead tree, while another group picks at a carcass on the gravel bank below.
Water strider bugs hover over the water as swarms of mayflies celebrate their brief orgies in the great evolutionary struggle.
“These bugs are very happy today. It’s their one day when they can fly around and have sex,” said retired entomologist Dennis Kopp as he pointed to a swarm of mayflies, which hatch from their larval stages and breed for about 24 hours.
“It’s a sign of river health; it’s a sign of minimal river disturbance,” he said.