EDIT – Spanning more than a million acres in northwestern Arkansas, the Ozark Mountains are actually plateaus, uplifted as a unit, with few folds or faults. Water has shaped this land, creating rugged mountains, canyons and caves through erosion.

Tangles of diverse vegetation include upland hardwood of oak-hickory with scattered pines and brushy undergrowth dominated by species such as dogwood, maple, redbud, serviceberry and witch-hazel. This forest diversity makes the Ozarks a favorite for visitors in the spring when dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom, and in the fall when the forest turns into a brilliant display of oranges, reds and yellows.

The past century has been one of change for the lands now embraced within the Ozark National Forest, assembled by land purchases in the early 1900s. Homesteading, farming and timber development greatly altered the composition of the forest and its features. Beavers, which create new forest openings and water sources with their dam building, have been reduced in numbers, limiting their important role in the creation of varied forest habitats. Road-building and river channelization also played a role in eliminating many forest water sources. This legacy continues to present a challenge for native wildlife and gives rise to current forest restoration needs.

Bearcat Hollow Cooperative Habitat Project

Restoration of the river corridors with more large downed wood debris in the streams, variation in the forest cover to include more small openings, and creation of more freshwater ponds will set the forest back on a course toward better ecosystem health and hydrological function. The NFF aims to create healthier wildlife and fish habitat, restore intact ecosystems that benefit natural communities, and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities in a popular recreation area.

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