The Indian Creek watershed, located in southwest Missouri, includes the towns of Rocky Comfort, Anderson, and Lanagan (01). The watershed is part of the larger Elk River Basin which covers 1,032 square miles. 866 of these miles are found in Missouri while the remainder includes portions of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The quality of water found in Indian Creek is significant to the local economy, because it is a regional attraction for floating, swimming, and fishing.

Water volume, temperature, and quality can often be connected with local geological features. Most of the upper geological layers in McDonald County are from the Mississippian Period (362 – 320 million years ago), while some lower elevations show exposed Pennsylvanian and Ordovician rocks (505 – 441 million years ago) (02). With these time periods come the different characteristics that create the make-up of Lanagan, Missouri.

Rocks produced during the Pennsylvanian Period contain coal products, which are high in sulfur. During the Ordovician Period, rocks containing large amounts of carbonates and thin shales with three different types of sandstone were created. The rock that is now exposed consists of a few shales and limestone. It was most likely formed in shallow environments during the mountain building era and experienced climactic cooling (03). Rock from the Mississippian Period is crystalline and micritic limestone that is embedded in shale. This type of rock encourages the process of karstification, which occurs when the land is eroded away resulting in the creation of caves, sinkholes, wells, and fault lines. These new openings allow water to flow freely underground (04).

Southwest Missouri has seen several eras of economic development since its settlement. Logging, mining, and agriculture have all contributed to soil erosion and water quality degradation over the years. The most obvious current threats to water related to development include concentrated animal feeding operations, and population growth (05). Indian Creek basin is largely forested, but new home and business development, highway development, and the expansion of the poultry and hog industries are all potential contributors to water quality degradation.

One of the biggest water quality concerns in southwest Missouri is the use of septic tanks. While widely-dispersed, rural homes have little impact on the environment, small towns on septic tanks can produce large amounts of waste. Septic waste is a public health threat because of the potential spread of virus, exposure to chemicals, and excessive nutrients. While Anderson has a water treatment facility, Lanagan's homes and businesses are all served by septic tanks. These septic tanks are currently being studied, with the intention of cleaning out those that are in need, and looking for funding to replace failed systems (06). Cleaning or replacing old septic systems, or installing a waste treatment facility could reduce the potential of pollution to streams such as Indian Creek.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Envirofacts website offers a great deal of environmental information about the Indian Creek watershed. One item that is found on the website is a list of companies that have been issued permits allowing them to release materials into the environment. There are 65 facilities that the EPA has given water discharge permits to in McDonald County. Of these 65 facilities, 14 are located in the Indian Creek watershed including The Anderson Waste Water Treatment Facility and the Lanagan Housing Authority. These two companies are permitted to run sewage systems through the area. The Simmons Industries Anderson Feed Mill, which processes natural, processed and imitation cheese, is permitted to release certain quantities of waste into the environment including whey (07). In Lanagan, the APAC Missouri Masters Jackson Quarry is allowed to release limestone that has been crushed and broken. In Anderson, the Freeman Health Systems and one of the local schools are permitted to carry out heavy construction which can result in items washing into the creek. The remaining nine businesses are in the poultry industry, which have the potential for large amounts of animal waste to be discharged from their farms into local streams (08). The EPA also has posted the names of companies that have violated the rules they have set forth. Facilities that have been reported for dumping hazardous waste material into the creek include Casey’s general store in Anderson, Shellcraft Studios in Lanagan, and Sibley Industries in Anderson (09). Although the EPA strives to maintain or improve the water quality level in McDonald County, the violations show that accidents happen and they sometimes negatively affect Indian Creek.


01. Maps-Missouri Department of Natural Resources
05. Austin, Joe. Drury University Student. Field Observations of Indian Creek Watershed of Southwest Missouri. March 2004.
06. Holt, Drew. University of Missouri Extension, Springfield, MO. Presentation at Drury University March 21 2004.
07. United States EPA Toxic Release Inventory
08. United States EPA Water Discharge Permits
09. United States EPA Resource Conservation and Recovery Act