This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue

Sitting on the beautiful Current River, Van Buren in southeast Missouri is a hot spot for water activities, camping, and weekend trips. It is a popular tourist destination for Missourians and out-of-staters alike. The town is home to less than one thousand people, but many more visit throughout the year.

The Current River and the Jacks Fork River are the centerpiece of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. This national park was formally dedicated in 1971 to protect these two bodies of water. Although Van Buren is most popular in the summer, it’s also a great place to visit year-round for fishers, birdwatchers, and those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of a city for awhile.

Lodge at the Rosecliff Lodge and stay in one of the fifty-four units that offer balconies and picturesque riverfront views. It is located at the Landing on the Current River and offers year-round accommodations. In addition to the four-person rooms, there are also six- and eight-person suites available. If camping is more your style, stay at Big Spring Campground, which is open year-round and has bathrooms, picnic tables, grills, and fire rings.

The Blue Heron Restaurant at The Landing

Dine at The Blue Heron Restaurant at The Landing. This seventy-five-seat restaurant overlooks the Current River and is known for its charbroiled steaks, chicken, and shrimp meals cooked by chef Bobby King, and the full-service bar. Seasonal specials offered are fried morel, chanterelle, and chicken of the woods mushrooms that come right from the Missouri woods. Sit inside or enjoy the views and fresh air on the expansive outdoor patio. Appetizers like the fried onion blossom and desserts also lure visitors.

Visit the Missouri Down Under Adventure Zoo—formerly known as Cave Spring Park—where you can take a black light cave tour, participate in a quarry dig, shop at the gift shop, visit the Mineral & Fossil Museum, and pet and feed animals, including a kangaroo. Hike on the Ozark Trail to see the wild Ozarks, and on warmer days, jump into the water for tubing, canoeing, kayaking, and rafting. Most camping sites offer the equipment needed for these activities, and if you are staying at or near The Landing, you can find pricing at

Big Spring is another stunning land feature located near Van Buren. This bright blue spring is the biggest in Missouri and one of the largest in the world. It feeds into the Current River and is more than eighty feet deep. There are picnic tables, campgrounds, and trails as well.

Photos by The Blue Heron Restaurant and Smart Marketing