When most people think of mountains, they think of the Rocky Mountains or the Appalachian Mountains. Tall jagged peaks with steep canyons in between.
Growing up in the midwest I was used to mountains that were pushed into the sky from fault lines or volcanic activity. These new (by geological standards…) mountains were often stunning and, in some cases, unclimable.
So when I moved near the Ozarks I was shocked to find a totally different kind of mountain. Rounded, green, and easily accessible.
This led me to ask, are the Ozark Mountains actually mountains? Are they tall enough to be mountains? Are they formed correctly? Or are they just glorified hills…?
It turns out that the Ozarks are not actually mountains, but not for the reasons I expected.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Ozarks are actually a “low, dissected plateau” that is “roughly triangular in shape and bounded by the Arkansas River.”
In other words, it is a plateau that has had deep cuts through it thanks to erosion.
So what exactly is a plateau? A plateau is a “landform that has been elevated above the surrounding area by a geological process.” Think of it as a big flat tabletop of land (huge, in this case: nearly 50,000 square miles) that has been pushed up.
But don’t let that fool you, with an average elevation of around 1,500 feet the Ozarks are still home to some of the tallest peaks to be found between the Rockies and the Appalachians.
In fact, some of the Ozark peaks are so tall that they’re covered in snow year-round!
The Ozark Plateau
The Ozark Plateau is actually a large plateau that covers about half of the state of Arkansas and parts of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. The plateau is made up of many smaller plateaus, some of which have been eroded over time to form the Ozark Mountains. So, as I mentioned above, the Ozark Plateau is not a mountain.
The Ozarks (together with the Ouachita Mountains) form an area known as the U.S. Interior Highlands and are sometimes lumped together when people refer to the area.
In addition to being full of “mountains”, the Interior Highland area is also home to a number of important rivers, including the Tennessee River, the Arkansas River, and the Cumberland River which drain ia the White River and its tributaries. The region’s climate is generally cooler and wetter than the rest of the country, due to its elevation.
The Ozark Plateau region is drained by the White River and its tributaries. The Ozark Plateau is an area of great scenic beauty. The plateau has many caves, springs, waterfalls, and streams. There are also many parks and recreation areas on the plateau. The Ozark Plateau is home to some of the largest springs in the United States. These springs help to form the headwaters of the White River. Some of the most popular tourist attractions on the Ozark Plateau are Silver Dollar City, Branson, and Eureka Springs.
How Old Is The Ozark Plateau
The plateau that includes the Ozark Mountains is one of the oldest geographical features in the United States. The exact age of the Ozark Plateau is not known for sure, but scientists believe that it began to form around 300 million years ago.
Does It Really Matter If They’re Actually Mountains?
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter if the Ozarks are actually mountains or not. The main person I learned about it was to be pedantic and bother the old boys in my neighborhood about it.
But them not being mountains doesn’t mean it isn’t an amazing place to visit! From the ground, they look just the same and are just as grueling to hike through.
In fact, there are plenty of reasons to add the Ozarks to your travel itinerary. If you’re on the fence, here are just a few:
- They’re beautiful. The Ozarks are home to some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the United States. From lush forests to rocky bluffs overlooking winding rivers, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
- They’re full of life. The Ozarks are also home to a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, white-tailed deer, and elk.
- They’re peaceful. If you’re looking for a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the Ozarks are definitely worth considering. The region is known for its small towns and tight-knit communities.
So there you have it – the Ozarks are not technically mountains. But don’t let that dissuade you from adding them to your travel plans! The Ozarks offer visitors stunning natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and a chance to experience true small-town America at its finest.