Overlanding through the Northern Illinois Bayou Valley, Ozark National Forest


During our summer trip to the Ozarks, Van and I decided to dedicate a full day to running 4x4 trails in the eastern portion of the forest. We pondered over our Ozark National Forest map and eventually decided to explore the northern portion of the Illinois Bayou valley.

The map revealed several ways to get into the valley. We chose to take a route that was dedicated 4x4 only. Once we were east of Sand Gap, we turned off the secure pavement of AR-16 and headed south. The route was quite challenging for us and our vehicles. Van completed the whole trail in his stock F150. I made the journey in my slightly modified Toyota Tacoma. We did our best to try and film the journey. We captured most of the trail on film with the exception of the final, and most challenging, water crossing. We didn’t film that crossing because it was getting late in the day and we needed to move quickly.

The Ozarks are a wonderfully wild place to explore. Being completely enveloped in the green lush valley gave us a feeling of complete seclusion. We didn’t see a single soul as we slowly made our way across crystal clear streams and over the slick river rocks. It was a fun experience and we were able to glean some knowledge from the journey.