Mark Twain National Forest

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

National forests, including Mark Twain in the Missouri Ozarks, saw big crowds over the 4th of July holiday weekend, proving to be a popular destination for leisure activities while coronavirus concerns remain.

While forest office staff are still working from home because of pandemic concerns, the campgrounds, bathrooms and other public areas and facilities started opening to visitors in mid to late June.

National forests in the region are still accumulating data, but are reporting full campgrounds over the Independence Day holiday and full parking lots during the day.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Animal waste and nitrogen-based agricultural fertilizers contribute to nitrate runoff, which ends up in creeks, streams, rain and, eventually, water systems. Nitrate, that mix of nitrogen and oxygen, can cause serious health problems if it’s too concentrated.

The best defense is filtering, which forests are great at doing. But a new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service suggests forests are falling behind, and heavy rains brought on by climate change are making it worse.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

A stand of trees in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri looks a little more sparse than what is often depicted in a forest.

The trees are eight to ten feet apart, and that’s on purpose, fire management officer Greg Painter said.