Celebrating Ozarks Waters: Tracking down birthplace of James River

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SEYMOUR, Mo. (KY3) - KY3 is Celebrating Ozarks Waters. That's why we wanted to find the start of the James River. The river provides many of us our drinking water, places to play and fishing spots.

In the headwaters area, a man fights to preserve wood AND water.

"I just fell in love with the area, the beauty of the timber, and clear streams. I just fell in love with it," said Jason Smith of Redeemed Reclaimed Lumber.

The water starts flowing north of Seymour in Webster County. That';s the place where The James River gets its start and it's a a long way from Smith's birthplace.

Smith bought a farm in the area. The Nebraska native builds furniture. Much of the wood comes from barns doomed for demolition.

"This is all wood that was probably sawed, somewhere between 1860 and 1900," he said.

Smith's land has one of the first creeks that joins the James River. That's why he also feels a responsibility to preserve and protect the water.

"I use very little herbicides or anything like that; no nitrates going into the water. We don't do a lot of fertilizing, just natural fertilizing," he said.

A couple years ago, Joe Pitts and Tiffany Frey's group, The James River Basin Partnership, tracked down what they believe is the birthplace of the James.

"I see the start of one of the most beautiful things on earth," said Frey with admiration in her voice.

The wide river most of us know starts with a spring that fills a pond.

"What we do directly affects the beauty of the river at this spot, all the way down to the end," Frey reminds us.

"If the river wasn't where it is, the town wouldn't be where it is and the recreational abilities wouldn't be where it is. The James River has a very rich history of being a recreational destination," said Pitts.

It's tough to see Smith's water preservation efforts but here's an example of how he cares for our history: some chairs (see a picture by clicking on the video) made from a barn damaged by tornado in Joplin in 2011. The barn itself was built by a Civil War veteran.

"Look at what came from that (saving the wood).
These barns are part of our American history and they're disappearing at a really rapid rate," said Smith.

He's just one person preserving history and protecting the water.. Now it's up to the rest of us because *we all live downstream."