Leaving Columbia this morning, I headed south on U.S. 63 and crossed the Missouri River at Jefferson City. After jogging east to cross the Osage River, this highway turns south once again, climbing into the Ozarks between the valleys of the Osage and Gasconade Rivers; dipping to cross the latter north of Rolla, it finally reaches the hydrologic divide of the Missouri Ozarks at Cabool, passing from the watershed of the Big Piney River (a secondary tributary of the Missouri) to the watershed of the White River of northern and eastern Arkansas.
At Batesville, Arkansas, I stopped to photograph the White River as it emerges from the Ozarks; though not as well known as our major Midwestern Rivers, the White is a large and powerful stream, taking in copious flow from both northern Arkansas and much of southern Missouri. Indeed, all through eastern Arkansas, signs near the White River warn drivers not to cross flooded roads and, this year, the river has spilled across its floodplain just east of Des Arc.
The Coastal Plain of eastern Arkansas is a mosaic of crop fields, wooded bayous, cypress swamps and stands of pine. Today, plumes of dust rose from this flat landscape as massive plows tilled the dry agricultural fields. Though I did not stop at any particular birding sites today, I observed a large number of scissor-tailed flycatchers on the powerlines and saw huge, mixed flocks of shorebirds in the flooded rice paddies. Tomorrow I'll visit the White River National Wildlife Refuge and then re-visit some of my old birding haunts east of Little Rock.