Immerse yourself in the Ozarks and their science-fiction scenery

Panorama de lac dans les Ozarks

Fantastic, wild and enigmatic, will you be able to resist the mysterious attraction of the Ozarks?

 

Our American friends are spoiled for choice when it comes to wide-open spaces and exceptional national parks! If the West has some idyllic spots for landscape lovers, there’s also a little corner of paradise wedged between Missouri and Arkansas. A wilderness of natural beauty, where all the wonders of Mother Nature come together. What’s it called? The Ozarks.

A lush green massif where vegetation mingles with crystal-clear streams cutting through the cliffs. It’s also a secret land of Hollywood successes! The scenery, as mysterious as it is breathtaking, is the star of many a successful film and TV series. The Ozarks set the tone: while the houses retain a certain patriotic style, and American flags fly from the facades of the cottages, this is indeed a world apart.

 

The Ozarks, impenetrable, magical and stars of the red carpet

The mountainous regions of the south-central United States are still little known to the general public. A few decades ago, life on the fringes of these harsh landscapes was still hostile. The harshness of living conditions and the precariousness of possible occupations gave the region a rather gloomy image. Nevertheless, despite the isolation and thin, rocky soils, lakeside villages gradually began to spring up. The men and women, far removed from civilization, slowly managed to turn the spotlight on their mountains. The very special atmosphere, bathed in mystery and magic, has ultimately charmed solitary adventurers and renowned film-makers alike.

The True Detective police force travels from town to town in Arkansas, leading the investigation to the flowery plains of the Ozarks Mountains. Previously, it was the dramatic story of the teenager played by Jennifer Lawrence that brought the Ozarks to the fore. Recently, it was the writers of the eponymous Ozarks series who ejected these grandiose, esoteric landscapes from their storyboard.

Mysterious settings beckon to stories shrouded in mystery and suspense. Confidential streets, simple houses with old-fashioned woodwork, endless winding roads lost in the forest, misty mountains in the background – what better setting for thrills, excitement and fascination?

 

The story of a wilderness holiday in the Ozarks

Des rapides dans les Ozarks

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Brandon Alms

We’re in the heart of the Ozarks. We slowly open our tent. Moisture beads on the makeshift shelters. A strong smell of petrichor tickles our nostrils. No intruder seems to have approached the camp last night. At least, there are no bear tracks or trails of small rodents. Last night’s embers are still smoldering, despite the dew that has settled all around.

In the early morning, the breeze whistles and gently caresses the world as it opens its eyes. Air currents push aside the mist and, little by little, the peaks, shrouded in mystery, come into view. The lake water, crystalline and frozen in a piercing blue, ripples and sparkles. The first signs of nature awakening alert our senses. Birds and squirrels run first. The fir tops, clustered in thick forests, then move and rustle timidly. Soon, the lake’s trout come rippling to the surface. The first rays fall in golden cloaks over the limestone cliffs. The first eagles soar from these heights and pierce the morning air. Majestic! The sight of nature awakening is invigorating.

Just a few steps are enough to stir up the ground and bring back the scent of damp pinewoods. When we leave our cabin in the middle of the forest, all it takes is a deep breath to feel your whole body purified. On the way back to the village, the deep, dark caverns are silent. It’s hard to imagine that at nightfall, a thousand native bats emerge from these bottomless chasms. As civilization approaches, there’s no noise. Here, roads are still a long way off and towns look like lost hamlets.

Cascade près des Spirit Creeks

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Ross Ellet

Cigarette smoke rises slowly in the street. Fishermen in checked shirts sit patiently in their boats, while shopkeepers polish the neon lights on their signs. As for the families, they gather around a barbecue and the children swim in the blue-green lake. Their victuals resemble huge fish caught in Bull Shoals Lake. It’s a man-made lake in the middle of which the more adventurous leap from rocky promontories.

A red-brick restaurant, a local entity, serves comforting burgers and Fayetteville beer. The men, looking like rough hunters, discuss American soccer. The manager slips a cheesecake under the bell on the counter. Yummy!

« It’s their way of being happy »

Here, we take a bath in authentic American culture! Life here is very different from the rest of the United States. The people of the Ozarks live in a kind of fascinating autarky, fused with the wilderness. The atmosphere is melancholy, soothing and strange. At dawn, fog creeps into the village, but it’s in this mystical, eerie atmosphere that the Ozarks find peace. They prefer the ruggedness of the mountains to the hustle and bustle of big cities. It’s their way of being happy. Witness the long evenings of folk music and artists’ hangouts.

We can now continue on our way to the edge of the forest.

There’s a certain charm in donning one of those traditional orange life jackets before venturing out on the water. Yet the White River is peaceful. So much so, that the ramparts of conifers and trees dipping their foliage in the water are perfectly mirrored. We paddle in rhythm, splashing from time to time. Our canoes and kayaks follow one another, their slowness lulling us to sleep. The walk around the bend in the river makes us want to go further into the Ozarks. Why not take the Buffalo National Rover, where towering cliffs are split by gigantic, sparkling waterfalls?

The riverbank comes into view. A few mountain bikes hurtle down the rocky paths, while serene hikers wave as they pass. They come back from the high paths, lined with oaks and opening onto immense ridges.

The soil is loose, waterlogged from the limestone walls. The sun shines through the long, bushy trees. This is a good sign: we’ll have the light we need to set up our new camp for the night.

 

Venturing into the Ozarks

Magnifique décor au coeur des Ozarks

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Gunnar Rathbun

When?

 

The Ozarks have a warm, humid, subtropical climate. Average temperatures are cool and rainfall high. To combine all these pleasures and take full advantage of outdoor activities, we recommend you visit the region from May to September. July and August are the hottest months for swimming. In spring, hikers love the sight of the flora and fauna in full bloom.

In autumn, on foot, by bike, on horseback or on the water, you can still enjoy anIndian summer. The colors of the landscape explode in gold and red. As the temperature cools, it’s nice to snuggle up in heated, lakeside chalets. Water sports are available, but only in wetsuits!

Finally, the winter experience is more rugged, but charming if you like the mountain atmosphere, the serenity of snow-covered woods and fishing for rarer fish.

 

How?

 

As you can see, there’s no urban sprawl here, with small villages swallowed up by buildings. Access to the Ozarks won’t be direct, and distances will be rather long.

There are four main regions in the Ozarks:

  • Buffalo Rover,
  • Norfork Lake,
  • Bull Shoals,
  • White River.

The best way to get to these mountains is by plane to Springfield, Kansas City or St. Louis. In any case, it will still take you between an hour and three hours to get to the heart of the mountains.

 

And around the Ozarks?

Halles posées au bords de lac Ozark à Branson

Photo credit: Shutterstock / NSC Photography

However, the region has many other secrets to reveal and attractions to offer.

All over Arkansas, the views are stunning and the waterways pure. You can also take a cultural and commercial bath if you’re craving city pleasures. The cities are rich and cosmopolitan. Old streets, antiques and theater scenes rub shoulders with microbreweries, museums and water sports venues. The region, considered the cradle of jazz, also features folk sounds played on banjo and fiddle. The wooded trails offer exciting hikes, while the towns are littered with Victorian buildings and art galleries. For relaxation, let yourself be seduced by the region’s thermal baths and natural hot springs.

In Missouri, head for Branson. If you’re traveling in summer, you should know that the city welcomes a thousand Santa Cl auses in July! In Branson, plays and shows abound. In the surrounding area, you’ll find quiet spots for hiking, climbing and golfing. In Springfield, stop off for a baseball game and enjoy the nightlife. You can also browse flea markets and relax in a spa. Discover the history of the region, heir to numerous civil wars.