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Ozarks - Topography

Appalachia and Ozarks The Ozarks are called, by custom, "mountains," but they are not mountains nor yet foothills, any more than they are ridges. They have a character all their own, which combines mountainous, hilly, and foothilly features in one, with an effect the essence of which is picturesque roughness.

The Ozarks-Ouachita uplands follow a topographic regionalization broadly similar to the Appalachians, with the "grain" now east-west instead of northeast-southwest. The Ouachita Mountains to the south exhibit a series of folded parallel ridges and valleys. They are separated from the Ozarks by the structural trough of the Arkansas River Valley. The Ozarks is an irregular, hilly area of eroded plateaus, much like the Appalachian Plateau section.

The Ozark Highland, locally known as "the Ozarks" lies in five states, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Illinois. The boundaries are for the most part ill-defined, and estimates of area therefore may vary considerably: the northern limit is placed usually near Glasgow, Missouri, in Lat. 39 15' N.,1 and the southern limit lies near Van Buren, Arkansas, in Lat. 350 30'. On the east Shawneetown, Illinois, in Long. 88 15' W., may be taken as the extreme limit, and on the west the Neosho River of Oklahoma, in Long. 50 15'.

The highland as thus limited forms a rude parallelogram, the long axis running northeast and southwest. The total area may be estimated at 50,000 square miles, of which about 33,000 are in southern Missouri, 13,000 in northern Arkansas,3 3,000 in northeastern Oklahoma, and the remainder in the Shawnee Hills of southern Illinois and in the southeastern corner of Kansas. The highland occupies nearly half of the area of Missouri and all of the state south of the Missouri River, except the Southeastern Lowlands and a triangular area in the Osage Plain on the west.

Together with the adjacent Ouachita Mountains, it forms the only extensive tract of elevated land between the Appalachian and the Rocky Mountains.

Because of the complex topography and other readily apparent contrasts between its different parts, the Ozark region has been given various appellations. The term "mountains" is the oldest, and is most employed in the very rugged Arkansas portion, where the name "Ozark" also originated.1 It is not appropriate to the Missouri part of the Ozarks, has never been in common use there, and is resented by the inhabitants. The term "plateau" properly describes only the western third and is so limited in local usage. For the remainder of the area it is correct only in a technical physiographic sense, and is decidedly misleading otherwise. For certain large but discontinuous tracts the name "hills" is appropriately used. "Dome" and "uplift" are geologic, not geographic, expressions. The name best suited, because not too specific, is "highland." It is applicable to the mountain, plateau, and hill sections, as well as to the gently sloping border areas.

The Ozark Highland has three distinguishing characteristics of surface: (1) elevation generally higher than that of the surrounding regions; (2) greater relief; and (3) general accordance of summit levels.

The highest elevations are in the Boston Mountains of Arkansas and are about 2,300 feet above sea-level. The average elevation of the Boston Mountains is about 1,800 feet, and the height above the adjoining Arkansas Valley 1,400 to 1,800 feet. This section has been sculptured into truly mountainous forms by the Arkansas and White river systems.

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Page last modified: 01-11-2017 19:24:07 ZULU