Areas With Few or No Codes: Ozark Plateau

Ozark Plateau has abundant forests, rivers, lakes and streams
Ozark Plateau has abundant forests, rivers, lakes and streams

We’ve had a lively discussion for years here on our Natural Building Blog about the best places to live with few or no building codes that make it easy to build a home out of low cost natural materials and create a homestead. In my opinion the Ozarks is a top choice for natural building and homesteading in the US due to many factors.

Favorable features include: relatively mild weather (= easier to garden), abundance of forests and timber, affordable land, and abundance of lakes, rivers, streams and springs (water almost everywhere). The Ozarks have a very independent, freedom loving culture that has kept building codes to a minimum. The area is incredibly beautiful. Do an image search with your favorite search engine or check out this tourism video for a sample of the local scenery.

“The Ozarks, also referred to as the Ozark Mountains, Ozarks Mountain Country, and the Ozark Plateau, is a physiographic and geologic highland region of the central United States, primarily in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The Ozarks cover a significant portion of southern Missouri, extending as far northeast as the southwestern suburbs of St. Louis. In Arkansas, a large portion is contained within the northwestern and northcentral region. Much smaller pieces of the Ozarks extend westward into northeastern Oklahoma and extreme southeastern Kansas.

Although sometimes referred to as the Ozark Mountains, the region is actually a high and deeply dissected plateau. Geologically, the area is a broad dome around the Saint Francois Mountains. The Ozark Highlands area, covering nearly 47,000 square miles (122,000 km2), is by far the most extensive mountainous region between the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains.

The majority of the Ozarks is forested; oak-hickory is the predominant type; Eastern Junipers are common, with stands of pine often seen in the southern range. Less than a quarter of the region has been cleared for pasture and cropland. Forests that were heavily logged during the early-to-mid-20th century have recovered.

Today hunting and fishing for recreation are common activities and an important part of the tourist industry. Foraging for mushrooms (especially morels) and for ginseng is common and financially supported by established buyers in the area. Other forages include poke, watercress, persimmons and pawpaw; wild berries such as blackberry, black raspberry, raspberry, red mulberry, black cherry, wild strawberry and dewberry; and wild nuts such as black walnut and even acorns. Edible native legumes, wild grasses and wildflowers are plentiful, and beekeeping is common.

The 1960s and ’70s saw back-to-the-land farms and communes established in rural counties.”

Scenic Ozark Hikes
In addition, the Ozarks is a somewhat protected area well away from high density urban areas along the coasts. In a major disaster like an EMP strike or major financial crash, the Ozarks might provide good refuge until things recover.

29 thoughts on “Areas With Few or No Codes: Ozark Plateau”

  1. Hey guys, i don’t know if y’all (yes, “y’all”) are still commenting but i need some help. i have ab $6000. i’ve been digging (no pun intended) into earth ships, earth bags and cob. cob seems difficult due to the humidity.
    earth rammed tires can help ease my anxiety about buying land with perfect soil but what about the humidity once it’s built?
    how do i curb the condensation? is it a problem with earthbag houses with walkout basements/ earth sheltered or lower level homes? does anyone have any advice on building a multi-room house for me and my two kids for under $5000 in a humid environment? i really want to go underground. also, any recommendations on where to rent or hire an excavator on the cheap?

    thanks ahead of time!

  2. This is really late, by a few years but I assume someone still reads this occasionally. I’ve lived in Arkansas my whole life. It is extremely racist here and as homophobic as it gets. I lived up in the ozarks and moved to Little Rock to get away from it. It was beautiful and definitely worth a trip out there, but living there was and always will be a nightmare for me. I only go back to visit and every time I do, I’m so thankful I don’t live there anymore. Just thought I’d weigh in.

    • Hi Shelby, I guess I’m late too, 10 months after your post I found this blog. Were you in the mid-north area around Mountain Home? Yeah, pretty backwards. I live in Bentonville, a pretty progressive area by contrast. My concern was lack of building codes, which led me to this blog.
      I’m wondering, what is the main concern about building codes for the natural building seekers? Is it that your choice of approved material is constricted so that you can’t use the actual trees on your property? Or is it a waste septic system that a person invents doesn’t meet some fixed regulated standard?

    • yeah i’m a lesbian moving from little rock to the NWA and i’m going to Eureka Springs! it’s about the only place i want to live up there but i have to go for school.. i have to say, it must be better than hearing automatic gunshots on the regular. my kids don’t even ask questions anymore when i tell them to stay below the windows for a while… also, the rent in little rock isn’t great for the money available. which is why im going biotecture. well, one of the many reasons

  3. I want to buy some land with no building codes this year. I can’t do it any other way. I have been looking into Arkansas, but I need to hear from someone living there. I got a little worried when I found this link above ( This site gave a very negative spin as far as the Ozarks is concerned. I would like to hear from someone living there. Please contact me through YouTube or my e-mail. Thank you.

    • if you’re a strait, white male-you’re good. if not, go to little rock or Eureka Springs. that’s the best advice i have. also, keep your wardrobe out all year. you never know what you’ll need to wear that day. and you’ll never hurt for water.. solar can be a problem in some wooded areas and we have a lot but land is cheap from what i hear. except in North West. it’s about 5 times as expensive but for good reason. lots of $ up there. and it’s fucking gorgeous. we have thousands of caves and waterfalls.

    • Go and visit and see what you think. That’s the only way to know for sure. Sounds to me like they’re real friendly but who knows.

  4. Does anybody know of counties in New England (especially Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine where I can live off grid or semi off grid? I’m from the Rocky Mountains and I’m getting tired of it. I need to head east like the film with John Candy.

    • Maine is awesome. I live in grand isle 0 building codes unless you hook up to electric. But i want to go to warmer weather

  5. My family lived on a 175 acre farm in South Central Missouri for which we paid just over $200 per year in taxes. Creek ran through property. Hills and fields. Lots of walnut trees. It was idyllic, but we eventually moved to Alaska for more adventure.

    The article is accurate. We grew ginseng on the farm. Natives are down-to-earth and friendly, but like anywhere, there are now pockets of druggies.

  6. Greetings dear souls.


    I would like to share from personal experience, that rural areas are very prone to region-opathy. and to be very careful where you decide to move. I have lived in rural areas, where you do find a veneer of kindness, yet have found it dangerous when it comes to the good old boys and girls who find ways to stick it to those moving into their areas, in the name of making a living and supporting their family…

    This is about much more than just finding yourself a place to live off grid. and i suggest you educate yourself abundantly, before ever moving to an area.

    most local folks in rural areas will always view anyone who moved there from anywhere else as an outsider, no matter how nice you are. and no matter how long you have lived in the area. and no matter how much you reach out to be of service and help.

    I know someone who moved to Hinton, WV in the late 1970’s. and this person is still seen as an outsider, even though they organize events and do amazing local service. is a website which explains a bit of this challenge of choosing to move to an area filled with folks who are more than willing to take advantage of you.

    DRUGS are also rampant throughout these areas. So many folks are down on their luck due to economic constraints, and have little to sustain them, and their dreams die in a fog of drug addiction.

    There are some forum threads on about this issue, although i am not sure how to search for those. maybe a post of your own asking about this can get others to link youto those threads.

    • Yes, always do your research. And then go and visit for a while to make sure the area is what you’re looking for.

    • Yeah meth is taking this country by storm. I personally think the redneck population is dwindling and or assimilating more with the rest of the country due to socio economic factors. I am planning on homesteading there but grew up in L.A. with bikers racists, methheads and assorted scum so I just stay locked and loaded in case shit pops off. Being street smart and hickabilly smart helps definitely to finesse the politics of coexisting.

  7. I’m afraid that was too cryptic for me to understand.
    I’m already doing everything off-grid.
    My life is figured out.
    I was hoping for some specificity regarding locale on buildable code free land I could purchase rather than continue to homestead on leased land.
    Ya know, trading in land rental for a small property tax.
    Perhaps this was just a “the Ozarks are nice, go see if you can find something” article.
    I figured you held knowledge or had personal experiences with more detail regarding places or people in the area.
    I’m already self sustaining on with regards to water, electric, waste, heat, and more.
    It is hard to meditate away a monthly fee for the land though.
    Any precise info on the Ozarks?

    • What I’m saying is to seek higher guidance (spiritual guidance) for where and when to move. I’ve not been there so can’t comment on specifics. But I have researched this to the point where I feel comfortable saying this is one of the best places for off grid homesteading in the US.

  8. Nice post Owen,
    Where to start?
    I wanna buy cheap and build without inspection but only have a 2WD van…
    I am already homesteading on land in MD but I have to pay a tiny bit monthly for the corner of the property which keeps me tethered to need for $$$…
    the email addy works if you don’t wanna broadcast it…

    • Everyone has to work out their own life. Everyone’s situation is different. I find it helpful to do lots of inner reflection, contemplation, meditation, whatever it takes to sort things out. The east coast will be a terrible disaster area IF (and I capitalize IF because I don’t have a crystal ball) the economy and political situation continue to unravel. Most people will be better off in my opinion in rural areas away from the coasts. This is the same thing almost all survival experts say (Joel Skousen, etc.).

  9. Earlier this week, I too thought about Arkansas as a sustainable place to build and live. I wonder if you know of builders, or communities, in Arkansas at present?

    I am a senior, single, living on early Social Security; after a career of paltry income in human services 2 bouts of cancer led to early retirement. Organic gardening was part of my wellness plan. Now, I’m interested in sustainable and long term senior living, especially now. Renting is less an option all the time, and trailer living is not my senior living choice. Arkansas is a beautiful area, and I thank you for the article.

    • I believe there are ecocommunities/eco villages/sustainable rural communities located throughout the Ozarks. Search these terms in a search engine plus the name of the state you want to live in. Ex: Arkansas ecovillage. Keep trying different search terms to narrow the search and improve results. Nowadays you can find almost anything you want: small college town with rebuilt old timey shopping district, co=housing, etc. You want to think community. Find people you get along with and have similar interests. It could turn out to be the best part of your life.

      • Thank you, that was helpful. I’m new at this, and not a regular social media user. Eco community…sounds good, I’ll Google.

        • The baby boom generation has created a boom in senior services. As long as you’re not in a real remote area I suspect you will find various options. Everything seems to be available on the Internet now so you should be able to find everything you need from home.


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