South of Kansas City, there’s little to see before the Ozark Mountains. Occupying most of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, the area remained frontier territory until timber companies moved in at the end of the nineteenth century. When they moved on, the hill-dwellers were left to eke out a living from the denuded terrain; severe droughts forced many to leave for the cities. For those who stayed, fishing resorts and tourist attractions supply some work, though the region remains poor. None of the Ozark peaks are particularly high, though the roads through them switch, dip, climb and swerve to provide views of steep hillsides thick with oak, elm, hickory and redbud, particularly resplendent in autumn. Springfield is the region’s main city, 130 miles south of Kansas City, but the toothless resort and entertainment town of Branson is more popular by far.
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