Recently we finished researching the proposed and controversial Army Corps of Engineers County Line Dam for our upcoming book on the James River. This 1970s dam would have created a 14,000 acre multipurpose reservoir on the James, ten miles east of Springfield. The entire lake would have been in Webster County, but one end of the dam would have been just a few hundred yards from the Greene County line. One of its multi-purposes was to supply the city with water. A combination of landowner ire, environmentalist objections, and a poor benefit/cost ratio killed the project. During the turmoil the city made other plans for future water needs.
A recent Sunday afternoon, we set out to Webster County to survey the countryside that would have been inundated by that project. The upper James is quite an attractive stream but there is virtually no public access. The creeks that flow into it are typically chert-floored, crystal clear Ozarkian streams. Some have access where roads cross them.
On the second bridge up from the James on Panther Creek, we encountered Patrick Mureithi and his family enjoying an afternoon of wading, swimming and hanging out on the gravel bar. We chatted in the waning light of early evening, learning that Patrick, a native of Kenya, had lived in Springfield for many years and is a quite well known documentary filmmaker and musician. (http://www.patrickmureithi.com ) We told him of our ‘river books’ (Damming the Osage and work-in-progress James Fork of the White). He told us he had just written and recorded a song named Riverbed. Coincidence? Or merely our good fortune? Riverbed is a haunting, lyrical song with a ukelele accompaniment, recorded not in a studio, but in a backyard, with amazing clarity. The lyrics seem so appropriate to our Ozarks hills and streams. You can watch it on YouTube:
Hold this firm from evening to morning
Though may tribulation come your way
In the hills is where you’ll find your power
Among the trees and riverbed I say
We agreed that these restorative little creeks are ideal places for family outings. We told him where they could access Panther Creek closer to the James, with a little deeper water. If County Line Dam had been built, both these appealing spots would have been deep under the water of the lake
You can see sample pages of James Fork of the White on our website www.beautifulozarks.com