First NPOTA Activation at Big Spring

I decided to take some time off from my hectic ARES schedule as of late (seven Saturdays in a row) and afford myself a little personal ham radio time this weekend.

After the two and half hour drive down to Van Buren, MO I activated National Parks Service unit RV05 – Ozark National Scenic Riverways as part of the NPS’s Centennial Celebration.


Entrance to the park headquarters from Main St in Van Buren, MO

Upon stopping by the Visitor Center, I was bummed to see it was only open on a Monday thru Friday schedule. Unable to chat with local park rangers, was both a blessing and a missed opportunity to introduce them to the hobby.



Stopping by the entrance gate at Big Spring.

Not having to worry about any Special Use Permit, daily parking fees, and the other difficulties other activators have had to overcome at some of the other units was a nice way to start. The area was very quiet with only maybe a dozen or so visitors in the area near me. Hard to believe on a day with mid 70F temps and in an area providing natural shelter from the wind.


Google Maps image of my operating location in relation to Big Spring. GRID SQUARE: EM46mw – 36°57’08.4″N 90°59’36.9″W

The Big Spring area where I activated from is the largest one in the state of Missouri with a output of 276 million gallons of water each day. More information on it can be found on the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website.


FT-817 @ 5W, Z11 Tuner, a 13Ah SLA battery and good old fashioned pen and paper logging.

I found a picnic table that was near a downed tree right across from roar of the spring and started setting up.

From the table I was able to locate a suitable tree to stretch out my 53′ of long wire and connect to the homebrew 9:1 UNUN, & I started up. Checking into a few Missouri QSO party stations to test the setup before I officially started up NPOTA operations around 1630Z on 40M running at 7.203.50.

It was slow going at first having no cell phone coverage, no Internet access and no way to self-spot myself on the clusters and NPOTA Facebook page. After the third contact, I was able to get spotted by a fellow ham and shortly after a brief pileup of mostly regional stations.

I had done this on purpose because I saw a lot of comments from chasers that wanted to get local QSOs with parks and seemed to be skipped over in favor of quantity over the broader US. Essentially keeping the operation to NVIS to also make contacts during the Missouri QSO party. Even though I brought the FT-897 and 847 with as backups, I just didn’t see myself pumping out more than the 5W I was having fun with.

Had a lot of contacts from Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. So all in all, a very good run. A very good day. And a very good experience. There are plenty of good camping opportunities along the river thru the state so I’m sure the YL and I will be activating more throughout the year.