Creating the Ozark Run Scenic Byway

An overhead view of the Ozark Mountains

A New Way to See Scenic Missouri

Have you heard of “the Ozarks”?  Do you really know what it is – or what they are? We bet you would be surprised to learn that this rugged area of hills, valleys, springs, and streams covers 70,000 square miles in the middle of the USA, stretching from eastern Oklahoma right to the doorstep of St. Louis. Scenic Missouri is working with the Missouri Department of Transportation to help people understand the Ozarks better, by designating a new state scenic byway across the region. The byway, which combines some of the state’s most interesting, compelling, and beautiful roadways, will be named the Ozark Run Scenic Byway.

The route will start in St. Louis, head south to the St. Francois Mountains, cross the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, head west past Bull Shoals Lake, and end near Branson. This 375-mile journey, built along existing roadways, passes through small towns and wilderness. It links together many natural and scenic highlights in the state and provides access to numerous recreational opportunities. With all its hills, dips, and curves, it will also be tremendously fun to drive. A scenic byway of this magnitude will help to unite communities and organizations around a common mission: bringing the world’s attention to the Missouri Ozarks – a supremely beautiful, yet largely overlooked territory in the heart of our nation.

How Do You Create a Scenic Byway?

There are many steps in the birth of a scenic byway. The first step is now complete – the development of a nomination document and initial Corridor Management Plan. This has required many miles of driving, hundreds of photographs, and countless hours of writing and editing. MoDOT officially accepted the final revision of the nomination in March 2022, which officially kicks off the designation process. Next comes an assembly of the Scenic Byway Advisory Committee, made up of representatives from state agencies, AAA, scenic and historic preservation groups, and the billboard industry. Once they approve the plan, a series of public meetings will occur across southern Missouri, in each of the 11 counties along the proposed route. Feedback from these meetings will be used to refine the Corridor Management Plan.  Once every community approves the final plan, the byway will be officially designated in Missouri. Learn more about Scenic Byways here.

What’s Next?

But that is not the end of the story. We intend for the Ozark Run Scenic Byway to eventually cross the entire Ozark/Ouachita region, extending across Arkansas and Oklahoma as well. This byway could be a candidate for National Scenic Byway status, and at 1,155 miles, it would be one of the longest.

Learn more about this project at www.ozarkrun.org