Old man Winter has given Branson one of those great weekends reminding us that, although winter is not gone, spring, and all the wonderful outdoor activities that follow is just around the corner. “It’s hard to believe,” began Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “It’s January 29 and the temperature is 70 plus degrees, sunshine and azure blue skies. What a wonderful day to be outdoors.”
“The ‘Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery’ is an excellent place for families to experience the Ozark outdoors and much more,” Johnson added. “Although it is Missouri’s largest trout hatchery and produces over 1.2 million Rainbow and Brown Trout annually, it is filled with interesting things that families can share together, both indoors and outdoors.”
The portal to all the hatchery offers is its Conservation Center located near the foot of Table Rock Dam. It is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, free and open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with expanded hours from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Center itself has nature related exhibits which change seasonally, trout rearing and spawning exhibits, a 60 seat auditorium featuring the multimedia presentation “Ozark Trout” and a large glassed-in aquarium that permits an interesting look at large Rainbow and Brown Trout. It is designed so that the trout and those viewing them are looking at each other “eye ball to eye ball.”
You can exit the Center and take a self guided tour of the hatchery “race ways” seeing hundreds of thousands of trout from lunker brooders to those just a few inches in length that have just come from inside the hatchery. Trout food is available from quarter vending machines for those who want to feed the trout. Between Memorial and Labor Day guided tours of the hatchery are conducted on weekdays departing the Center’s lobby at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m.
The hatchery’s four hiking trails are also easily accessed from the Center. Each provides a convenient, level and accessible way to view the plants, trees, animals, birds and natural beauty of the Ozarks. This writers personal favorite is the four tenths of a mile long, “White River Corridor Trail” because it parallels Lake Taneycomo for almost its entire length. Maps of the trails and current trail conditions are available from the attendant in the Centers Lobby.
Branson Tourism Center’s Johnson notes that the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery is just one of Branson’s many attractions and ways that families can have fun together every day of the year.