Points of Interest:
- Marvel at the sheer canyon walls of this creek shut in.
- Listen to the rushing water through the shut ins in the spring.
- View ancient lichens and trees growing on the ancient volcanic rocks.
A classic example of an igneous gorge with sheer canyon walls, shut-ins, talus slopes and igneous glades in the Current River Hills region. Tall, up to 100 feet, igneous cliffs line the gorge’s sides. Up to 300 feet of relief occur within just a third of a mile here. Gnarled, ancient post oaks cling to ledges along the cliffs. Look for eastern phoebe and cliff swallow nests on these bluffs.
On the steep slopes above the cliffs dry woodlands developed on rocky igneous soils are dominated by shortleaf pine and white oak. These acidic soils support low bush blueberry, farkleberry, and abundant lichens and mosses. The lichen vegetation of Prairie Hollow Gorge is exceptionally diverse due to the abundance of appropriate rocky habitats. Lichens are species of fungus growing symbiotically with algae that result in a composite organism typically forming a crust-like or branching growth form on rocks or trees. Lichen growth rates can be extremely slow and some species are valuable indicators of air quality conditions. Because of the sensitivity of the unusual lichen flora on the bluffs here rock climbing is prohibited.
The intermittent stream that cuts through the site features pools and riffles coursing through boulders and cobbles. Along the jumbled boulders and cobbles of the stream grow sycamore, Ward’s willow, river birch, and swamp dogwood. In the fall a colorful display of mistflower, cardinal flower, and blue lobelia grow along the stream edge. A dozen fish species occur in the lower reaches of the stream including the green sunfish, bleeding shiner, creek chub, and rainbow darter.
This stream empties into the Current River under a quarter mile from the north boundary of the natural area. Just upstream of here is the confluence of the Jacks Fork and the Current Rivers. This stretch of the Current River is known to support the Current River saddled darter which is only found in the Current River and nowhere else in the world. Also along this stretch of the river is the Ozark shiner, only found in the Ozarks. Both of these fishes are species of conservation concern and depend on good water quality and stream habitats.