The Ozarks, National Geographic MagazineBy Randy Olson
This is a story about the Ozarks plateau; southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, and just a bit of Oklahoma. The plateau was once an ancient sea, its uplifted floor untouched by the glaciers that scoured the land to the north. Eons of erosion carved deep valleys into the Ozarks’ crusty limestone plateau, transforming the flat surface into the unlikely rolling hills that march nearly level into the distance and peak at 2,600 feet in Arkansas’s Boston Mountains.
The Ozarks is bounded by interstates — none go through — it’s an area of small and winding country roads. Television came late to the Ozarks and the music culture has stayed strong. One-room schools were the sites of weekly hootenannies and any manner of get-together was created where music was used as the evening’s entertainment.
The Ozarks has always been a sleepy little tourist destination. The area’s great scenic beauty has been a get away for those who like to canoe, fish, camp, or stay at one of the many mom and pop lodges. The first time this area got any national attention was because of a giant white statue of Jesus and the Shepherd of the Hills play, in which the shepherd warns that this place “may become a place of revelry.”
Branson has become this “place of revelry.” With more seats than Broadway, it is the number-one bus destination in the country and the number-two tourist destination. This epicenter of fading country music stars is displacing the traditional hootenanny culture of the hollows. As musicologist Gordon McCann says, “they’ve been flying over us for years, but now they’ve finally found us.”