Tunnel Bluff Woods
Points of Interest:
- Wander among large, old sycamores.
- See a natural arch on a bluff above the Current River.
- Look for birds and try your luck at fishing on the Current River.
Natural Features Description:
This area exemplifies the natural communities found in and along the Current River in the lower Ozarks. Gravel bars and backwater sloughs, along with a successional sequence from young to old-growth forest are included here along the Current River. Along the river sparsely vegetated gravel bars with scattered young sycamores and Carolina willow thickets merge into younger stands of sycamore and green ash. Farther back from the river older landforms, terraces, support old-age sycamores that attain large girths and tall heights. Pawpaw, spicebush and box elder dominates the understory.
The steep hills flanking the river valley rise up to 250 feet above the river. Here shortleaf pine, scarlet oak, black oak and white oak predominate. On the east side of the river a natural tunnel formed of Gasconade formation dolomite occurs. The arch or tunnel is thought to be an ancient cave roof remnant. It is about 15 feet tall, 15 feet wide and around 20 feet deep.
Along the lush bottomland forests and toe slopes of the bluffs look for yellow-throated warblers high in the sycamores along with the rare cerulean warbler. Red-shouldered hawks and kingfishers may ply the river valley. In the understory American redstarts and wood thrushes may occur. On the dry cherty bluffs worm-eating warblers, black-and-white warblers and ovenbirds may be spotted or heard.
In the river itself popular game fish such as smallmouth bass, goggle eye, walleye and suckers can be had. The diverse fishery contains colorful darters and shiners such as rainbow darters, bleeding shiners and rosyface shiners. The Current River saddled darter uses the river here. This darter is endemic to the Current River. According to The Nature Conservancy, the Current River is of global conservation significance. It provides habitat for 35 global priority aquatic species of which 25 have their best or only populations here.
This natural area is within both the Mark Twain National Forest and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. There are two ways to access the area by land. To get to the west side, from Eastwood, travel 4 miles south on Highway C. Then go left (east) on Forest Service Road 3142 (gravel). Proceed east as 3142 twists and turns for 7 miles. You will cross over Big Barren Creek along the way. A four wheel drive vehicle may be needed. You will arrive at the Gooseneck canoe access and campground maintained by the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. From the Gooseneck Access you could put a canoe in and float across to the other half of the natural area just across the river. To reach the east side, from Grandin head west on Highway O for nearly 5 miles. Then turn right on to Forest Service Road 3140 (gravel). Head west on 3140 for 2.75 miles and look for the pull-off and natural area sign to the right (north). From here you can walk north into the natural area. Hunting and fishing are permitted. A map and compass are recommended for exploring this area.