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Land Use

Historical Land Cover/Land Use

Many historical accounts describe the land cover of the rugged hills of the Eleven Point River, as well as other rivers in the area such as the Jack's Fork and Current, as consisting primarily of forest (Nigh 1988). These forests were described as being primarily open, with little woody undergrowth and a dense herbaceous ground flora composed of bluestem (Andropogon sp.) and other wild grasses and non-woody species. Ridges with sandy, flint covered soils were covered with stands of shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata). White oak (Quercus alba) and black oak (Quercus velutina) were often mixed with the pines on the ridges, and along with northern red oak (Quercus rubra), black walnut (Juglans nigra) and shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) formed the dominant canopy of the side slopes. Along isolated stream valleys in this watershed, prairie openings were also observed. This is reflected in the names of places such as Mt. Prairie Hollow.

In the uplands portion of the Eleven Point Watershed, where the topography is less dissected, a more barren or savanna land cover is believed to have existed (Nigh 1988). This consisted of "impoverished" open stands of post oak, black oak, and black jack oak with a ground story of grass.

The earliest inhabitants of the Ozarks, the Native American Indian, are thought to have existed in the Ozarks as semi-nomadic tribes living in small, transient camps and subsisting on hunting and foraging during much of the archaic period (7000-1000 B.C.)(Jacobson and Primm 1994). Late in the Archaic period, tribes on the fringes of the Ozarks became less nomadic, existing in larger villages and increasingly depending on plants for food, while tribes in the interior retained their hunter-gatherer characteristics. Tribes within the interior began to construct more elaborate villages as well as incorporate more agriculture into their subsistence during the early Mississippian Period (A.D. 900-1200). By A.D. 1500 this culture had disappeared as large villages based on agriculture began to grow along the eastern fringe of the Ozarks and the Mississippi River. During this period the interior of the Ozarks was used as a seasonal hunting ground as well as a source for flint and chalcedony for making tools. It is believed that a climatic shift to cooler, drier summers and the resulting failure of maize crops, on which early agriculture was based, may have caused an abrupt abandonment of these larger villages This is believed to have been the case of Cahokia Mounds in Illinois. Remnants of these villages and tribes reassembled to form the Osage Tribe which existed throughout much of the Ozarks and was present as European settlement of the area began to occur in the late 1700s and early 1800s (Jacobson and Primm 1994). Native American use of fire is believed to have been a large factor in the types of vegetation found by Schoolcraft and others as exploration of the Ozarks interior began to occur after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 (Schoolcraft 1821, Jacobson and Primm 1994). Fires, set for many reasons from harassment of enemies to aiding in hunting, also stimulated warm-season grasses such as bluestem and eliminated woody undergrowth thus creating open woodlands or savannas (Jacobson and Primm 1994). European settlement of the Ozark fringe began in the early 1700s under French and, later, Spanish political control. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, Americans began settling the same areas earlier occupied by the Spanish and French. Settlement of the Ozarks interior increased after the War of 1812 (Jacobson and Primm 1994). Many of the early settlers came from the Appalachian States such as Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia where they had learned the skills necessary for survival in land similar to the rugged Ozark wilderness (Nigh 1988). In addition to hunting and fishing, early settlers survived by using the valley bottom land for gardens and row crops, and the wooded side slopes and natural grass of the uplands for grazing cattle, hogs, horses, and other livestock. This region remained isolated and only sparsely settled until the late 1800's. As the timber resource of the eastern states dwindled and an increasing number of settlers migrated onto the western plains, the demand for the timber of the Ozarks increased (Cunningham and Hauser 1989). Undoubtedly, the cheap price of land having uncut timber was also very attractive to eastern speculators. Uncut timber land often sold for a $1.00 an acre (Cunningham and Hauser 1989). The coming of the railroad to the Ozarks interior during this time not only provided a means of transportation for lumber products, but also was a great consumer of this resource for railroad ties. With the extension of the railroads into the Ozarks came the large-scale exploitation of the timber resource (Rafferty 1983).

The many different products produced from the timber of the Ozarks resulted in a wide range of species and sizes harvested. Larger shortleaf pine trees were harvested for lumber, while a variety of sizes of hardwood trees were harvested for products such as railroad ties, charcoal, barrel staves, and flooring (Rafferty 1983, Cunningham and Hauser 1989).

Nigh (1988) states that "little attention was paid to regeneration of the forest and by the 1930s the timber cutting boom was over." Many of the settlers associated with the timber industry were forced to turn to subsistence farming as a means of survival (Nigh 1988, Cunningham and Hauser 1989 , Jacobson and Primm 1994). "After the removal of the pine and larger hardwood trees, a dense growth of young oak timber sprang up and the wild grasses diminished in abundance, greatly reducing the value of the range for pasture" (Krusekopf 1921). Grasses were annually burned and hogs and cattle roamed free. Continual burning, grazing and the cultivation of marginal uplands caused further damage to the already degraded land ( Nigh 1988, Jacobson and Primm 1994). Rivers and streams filled with gravel and water quality declined as soils, especially those on the steep rocky hillsides, suffered from severe erosion (Nigh 1988).

Attempts to farm the rugged country bordering the rivers in the Ozarks, including the Eleven Point, achieved limited success (Nigh 1988). Much of the population had left this area by the 1940s in order to find a better means of survival. Maintenance of the pasture land was more viable in the gentle uplands away from the rivers, where clearing of the land for grazing has continued up to the present. Jacobson and Primm (1994) indicate that although a significant portion of the watershed was purchased by the state and federal governments during the late 1930s, more intensive logging and agricultural practices on private land have countered the results of conservation practices employed on public lands.

An evaluation of present (1993) conditions of Ozark streams, pre-settlement period historical descriptions, stratigraphic observations, and accounts of oral-history responses on river changes during the last 90 years, led Jacobson and Primm (1994) to the conclusion that Ozark streams are disturbed from their natural conditions (Tables Lu01 and Lu02). Jacobson and Primm (1994) state that this "disturbance has been characterized by accelerated aggradation of gravel, especially in formerly deep pools, accelerated channel migration and avulsion, and growth of gravel point bars". Jacobson and Primm (1994) also suggest that "land use changes have disturbed parts of the hydrologic or sediment budgets or both".

Although detailed data from the Eleven Point Watershed has not been compiled, Jacobson and Primm (1994) summarized the land use changes from pre-settlement conditions to the 1970's in the Jack's Fork Watershed, which borders the Eleven Point River Watershed to the North (Table Lu03).

Jacobson and Primm (1994) state that: "Different types of land use have taken place on different parts of the landscape, and at different times, resulting in a complex series of potential disturbances. Uplands have been subjected to suppression of a natural regime of wildfire, followed by logging, annual burning to support open range, patchy and transient attempts at cropping, a second wave of timber cutting, and most recently, increased grazing intensity. Valley side slopes have been subjected to logging, annual burning, and a second wave of logging. Valley bottoms were the first areas to be settled, cleared, and farmed; removal of riparian vegetation decreased the erosional resistance of the bottom lands. More recently, some areas of bottomland have been allowed to grow back into forest. The net effects of this complex series of land-use changes are difficult to determine and separate from natural variability."

Jacobson and Primm (1994) offer the following observations which summarize the probable, qualitative changes to runoff, soil erosion, and riparian erosional resistance on parts of the Ozarks landscape relative to man's impact:

  1. Initial settlement of the Ozarks may have initiated moderate channel disturbance because of decreased erosional resistance of cleared bottom lands. This trend would have been countered by decreased annual runoff and storm runoff that accompanied fire suppression in the uplands.
  2. Because of low-impact skidding methods and selective cutting during initial logging for pine during the Timber-boom period, logging would have had minimal effects on runoff and soil erosion. Low-impact methods and selective cutting continued to be the norm in timber harvesting of hardwoods until the late 1940's, when mechanization and diversified markets for wood products promoted more intensive cutting. Locally, log and tie jams, tie slides, and logging debris may have added to channel instability by diverting flow, but because aggradation and instability also occurred on streams not used for floating timber, these factors were not necessary to create channel disturbance.
  3. Significant channel disturbance probably began in the Timber-boom period because of continued clearing of bottomland forests and road building in the riparian zone. This hypothesis is supported by evidence that significant stream disturbance began before the peak of upland destabilization in the post-timber-boom period. Extreme floods during 1895 to 1915 may have combined with lowered erosional thresholds on bottom lands to produce the initial channel disturbance.
  4. The regional practice of annual burning to maintain open range had the most potential to increase annual and storm runoff and soil erosion because of its considerable areal extent and repeated occurrence. Burning would have been most effective in increasing runoff and erosion on the steep slopes that had been recently cut over during the timber boom. Generally, accelerated soil erosion was not observed after burning, and relict gullies presently (1993) are not apparent on valley-side slopes and uplands. These observations support the hypothesis that burning did not produce substantial quantities of sediment.
  5. The greatest potential for soil erosion on valley slopes and upland areas occurred during the post-timber-boom period when marginal upland areas were cultivated for crops. Accelerated erosion of plowed fields was observed and noted by oral-history respondents and by soil scientists working in the Ozarks during the post-timber-boom period.
  6. Valley bottoms have the longest history of disturbance from their natural condition because they were the first to be settled, cleared, and farmed. The lowered resistance to stream erosion that results from removing or thinning riparian woodland would have been a significant factor, especially on small to medium sized streams for which bank stability and roughness provided by trees are not overwhelmed by discharge. Disturbance of bottomland riparian forest increased as free-range grazing, crop production, and use of valley bottoms for transportation expanded and reached a peak in the post-timber-boom period. Headward extension of the channel network because of loss of riparian vegetation may have increased conveyance of the channel network (and hence flood peaks downstream) and removed gravel from storage in first and second order valleys at accelerated rates. This hypothesis is supported by a lack of other source areas for gravel and by observations that gravel came from small stream valleys, not off the slopes.
  7. During present (1993) conditions, channel instability seems somewhat decreased in areas where the riparian woodland has recovered, but stability is hampered by high sedimentation rates because of large quantities of gravel already in transport and effects of instability in upstream reaches that lack a riparian corridor.
  8. Land use statistics indicate that the present trend in the rural Ozarks is toward increased populations of cattle and increased grazing density (MDA and USDA 1994). This trend has the potential to continue the historical stream-channel disturbance by increasing storm runoff and sediment supply with consequent remobilization of sediment already in transit."

Land Type Associations

Land type associations (LTAs) are units of land which are relatively similar in landform and in patterns of geologic parent material, aspect, soils and potential natural vegetation. Within the Eleven Point River Watershed, 9 LTAs have been identified. Each has a characteristic pattern of landform geology, soil and vegetation. Figure Lu01 indicates the distribution of these LTAs. Table Lu04 gives descriptions of LTAs within the watershed. LTAs could prove to be a useful tool for planning and implementing management activities (ie. water quality and aquatic biodiversity)

Current Land Use

The Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership (MoRAP) Phase 1 Land Cover Classification (1997) is currently the most recent compiled land use data available. This data, as analyzed by Caldwell (1998), indicates estimated forest/woodland cover within the watershed at 64.9% while grassland/cropland comprises 34.4% of the total land cover. Urban land use accounts for only 0.4% (Table Lu05, Figure Lu02, Lu03, and Lu04). The population density of the watershed is approximately 14 persons per square mile (Blodgett J. and CIESIN 1996). While forest/woodland is the most dominant cover type within the all three major drainage sections (Upper Eleven Point, Middle Eleven Point, and Lower Eleven Point), the Middle Eleven Point Drainage Section contains the highest combined percentage of forest/woodland cover at 79.2 percent. This is due, in large part, to the fact that much of this drainage is in public ownership as part of the Mark Twain National Forest (Figure Lu05). The Little Creek 14 Digit Hydrologic Unit (10003) has the lowest percentage of forest/woodland cover at 37.6 percent. The Middle Hurricane Creek 14 Digit Hydrologic Unit (30004) has the highest percentage of forest/woodland cover at 91.9 percent. This hydrologic unit primarily consists of public land (Figure Lu04 and Lu05).

Common trees within the Eleven Point Watershed include white oak (Quercus alba), black oak (Quercus velutina), northern red oak (Quercus rubra), scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), post oak (Quercus stallata), chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), black walnut (Juglans nigra), and shortleaf pine (pinus echinata). Less common species are silver maple (Acer saccharinum), american elm (Ulnus americana), american basswood (Tilia americana), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia).

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) rates sheet erosion as low at 2.5-5 tons per acre annually, which is considered an acceptable rate of soil loss. Gully erosion is only a slight problem at 0-0.16 tons per acre annually (MDNR 1994).

Soil Conservation Projects

At the time of this writing (1999),the Eleven Point Watershed has no completed, ongoing or planned Public Law 566 (PL-566) watershed projects or Special Area Land Treatment (SALT) projects within the watershed (Robbins, personal communication). The proposed Fredrick Creek and Piney Creek PL-566 projects were terminated.

Public Areas

Approximately 143,778 acres, or 22 % of the Eleven Point Watershed is in public ownership (Table Lu06 and Figure Lu05). Approximately 86% (137,442 acres) of the public land is part of the Mark Twain National Forest maintained by the United States Forest Service (USFS). In the upper reaches of the watershed are two Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) sites: Simms Valley Community Lake near Mountain View and Dean Davis Conservation Area about halfway between Willow Springs and West Plains (MDC 1995). The MDC maintains 2 additional conservation areas (CA): Cover Memorial CA, and Birch Creek CA. Cover Memorial CA is located five miles west of Alton on Highway P. Birch Creek CA is part of the Kerr-McGee lands and is located 3 miles south of Birch Tree on Highway 99. In addition, the MDC has 3 tower sites within the Watershed. The MDC also maintains one access site (Myrtle access) located on the Eleven Point River, 15 miles East of Thayer. Myrtle access is 26 acres with a concrete boat launch. The USFS maintains 8 stream access sites and 8 float camp sites along the Eleven Point River within the National Scenic River Area (USFS 1995). A detailed map identifying access sites and float camp locations is available from the United States Forest Service in Rolla, Missouri (573) 364-4621.

Table Lu01: Changes in Land Use and Cover

A table showing changes in Land Use and Cover

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Table Lu02: Land-use changes on parts of the rural Ozarks landscape

A table showing land-use changes on parts of the rural Ozarks landscape

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Table Lu03: Land cover/ land use change from pre-settlement period conditions

Table of land cover/ land use change from pre-settlement period conditions

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Figure Lu01: Land Type Associations

Map of land type associations of the Eleven Point River watershed

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Table Lu04: Descriptions of Land Type Associations

Table of descriptions of land type associations of the Eleven Point River watershed

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Figure Lu02: Land Cover/Land Use

Map of land cover/land use of Eleven Point River watershed

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Figure Lu03: 14 Digit Hydrologic Unit Forest/Woodland Cover

Map of 14 digit hydrologic unit forest/woodland cover

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Figure Lu04: 14 Digit Hydrologic Unit Land Cover/Land Use

Map of 14 digit hydrologic unit land cover/land use

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Figure Lu05: Public Land

Map of public land around the Eleven Point River watershed

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Table Lu05: Land Cover/Land Use within the Spring River Tributaries

Land Cover/Land Use within the Spring River Tributaries

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Table Lu06: Public lands within the Eleven Point Watershed

Table of public lands within the Eleven Point Watershed

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