Category Archives: Outdoors

Three free Branson outings for families to enjoy!

Table Rock Lake’s Dewey Short Visitors Center on south end of Table Rock Dam.

“There’s more live shows and attractions for families to enjoy in Branson than ever before,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “Their prices, and the price of lodging in Branson, are among the most reasonable anywhere, making Branson one of the greatest vacation values in America,” he added.

He said that value is even more evident when families take advantage of some of the unique free things there are to do in Branson. The natural scenic beauty of the Ozark Mountains is a major attraction for millions of Branson visitors. These three free outings, are all located near Table Rock Dam, feature the natural beauty of the Ozarks, and are readily accessible for families to safely and conveniently enjoy together:

1. Table Rock Lake Shore Trail: Spending time on the typical trail through the woods might not be at the top of the list of activities for a lot of reasons. This trail however, is different. The 2.2 mile trail is asphalt, wide, very level and is ideal for just about everyone, including families with small children.

It’s accessible to wheel chairs, motorized and non-motorized; carriages, bikes, and is intended for non-motorized activities including hiking, jogging and more. The trail is a great way for families to experience the outdoor wonder of the Ozarks surrounded by nature without having to deal with the challenges of the typical “trail.”

As the name “Table Rock Lake Shore Trail ” implies, it follows the shore line of Table Rock Lake. Starting at its Trailhead in the Dewey Short Visitor Center parking lot, it proceeds south .6 miles to the Showboat Branson Belle. From there it goes 1.4 miles to the Table Rock State Park and 2.2 miles to its ending near the “Table Rock State Park Marina.”

A nice excursion would be to walk from the Dewey Short Trailhead to the Showboat Branson Belle. Enjoy the beautiful grounds, see the Showboat up close, have some refreshments, shop its shops, and then return to your starting point.

2. The Dewey Short Regional Visitors Center at Table Rock Dam: The $7.9 million, 15,000 square foot U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visitor center has been called “the crown jewel of Table Rock Lake.” It’s one of only 11 Class A visitor centers in the U.S. and is located at the opposite end of the parking lot from the Table Rock Lakeshore Trailhead.

Its floor to ceiling glass windows, on the Table Rock Lake side of the building, offer an unparalleled view of Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo. The Center features interactive activities, displays on area history, nature and the inner workings of Table Rock Dam, movies, a gift shop with unique merchandise, and an interesting film on the construction of Table Rock Dam.

Raceways at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery contain hundreds of thousand Rainbow and Brown Trout.

3. Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery: The “Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery,” is less than ten minutes from the famed Branson Strip at the foot of Table Rock Dam. The hatchery itself is part of a 211 acre “Conservation Center” with a wild life refuge, trails, boat launching ramp, picnic areas, and a Visitor Center.

It’s operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation and is visited by over a quarter of a million people annually. The hatchery itself is just part of the 211 acre “Conservation Center” with a wild life refuge, trails, boat launching ramp, and a Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center features an interesting nature display and a short video on the hatchery and the process involved with producing the trout that makes Lake Taneycomo one of the premier trout fisheries in the nation. There’s a huge aquarium with “lunker” Brown and Rainbow Trout.

Visitors are welcome to take self-guided tours of the “race ways,” by themselves during normal business hours. They will see thousands of trout in the various stages of development from the smallest to the large “brood stock” used to produce Lake Taneycomo’s trout.

The Visitor Center opens at 9:00 a.m. every day except, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

These are just the free activities in one area of Branson! From grist mills, to scenic overlooks, feeding ducks and geese, “Dicks 5 & 10,” a free downtown trolley, and so much more, Branson has a wide range of free activities that families can enjoy together.

For more information on these activities, Branson shows, attractions and lodging please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center toll free at 1-800-785-1550.

Wouldn’t your family enjoy Memorial Day Weekend in Branson?

Silver Dollar City’s “Wildfire”, the Branson Ferris Wheel, Ride the Ducks, and the Million Dollar Quartet are just a few of the many ways to have fun in Branson.

“Memorial Day Weekend in Branson is a unique exciting experience,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “Oh, there’s other places with world-class theme parks, natural outdoor beauty, lakes, live shows, and attractions, but there’s few, if any, that have them all so conveniently located. Branson does!” he added.

Garrison says that not only is it the first “long summer weekend,” but it’s the “official” beginning of Branson’s summer outdoor season. Its spectacular lakes and natural outdoor beauty are in their full splendor. All Branson’s live shows and attractions are open, and ready to provide its visitors with a special experience not available anywhere else.

The proof’s in the pudding! From its oldest and most popular attraction, the 1880s styled Silver Dollar City, to its world-class live shows, and lakeside shopping and entertainment venue, Branson Landing, Branson is unique. What other tourist destination offers everything Branson does? All amid the natural wonder and beauty of a place like the Ozarks, and less than five minutes from a pristine 43,000 acre lake?

All of Branson’s most popular live shows are performing over the Memorial Day Weekend. * These include:

Acrobats of China
Amazing Pets
Broadway’s Greatest Hits
Clay Cooper’s Country Express
Comedy Jamboree
Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies
Grand Jubilee
The Haygoods
Illusionist Rick Thomas
it starring the Hughes Brothers
Legends in Concert
Main Street Lake Cruises Landing Princess
Main Street Lake Cruises Lake Queen
Million Dollar Quartet
New Jersey Nights
Ozarks Country
Ozarks Gospel
Pierce Arrow
Presleys’ Country Jubilee
Puttin On The Ritz
Raiding the Country Vault
Shoji Tabuchi

“Few world-class theme parks in the world have become part of the natural beauty surrounding them,” said Garrison. “Silver Dollar City has!” The view from the top of the loops of its world class coaster “Wildfire” spectacularly illustrates this remarkable achievement.

Silver Dollar City’s Bluegrass and BBQ Festival, features over 50 Bluegrass bands and groups. These groups present hundreds of performances throughout the park. Performers appearing over the Memorial Day Weekend include 14-time Grammy Award-winner Ricky Skaggs; Blue Highway; and many more.* The festival’s House of BBQ and Pitmaster’s Court offer a variety of mouthwatering BBQ. There’s demonstrations from grilling experts and an impressive selection of BBQ sauces, and more, to browse. As well as the Festival, Silver Dollar City offers all the shows, rides, craft demonstrations, and more, that makes it one of the top theme parks in the nation.

Table Rock Lake offers 43,000 surface acres of potential aquatic fun, excitement, and adventure. Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial kick off a summer of fun on the lake including sunbathing, swimming, boating, water skiing, scuba diving, and just about any other summer water activity a person would want.

Branson’s biggest water park, White Water, opens for its 2017 season on May 27. Its 12 acres and over 7,000 feet of water slides, offer more than two million gallons of water excitement and fun to enjoy. There’s an adventure for every member of the family. There’s “Splashaway Cay” and “Coconut Grove” for the smaller children and toddlers. The more adventurous will enjoy the seven story “Kalani Towers and ” the drops and speed of rides such as “KaPau Plummet,” “Pipeline Plunge” or the “Raging River Rapids.”

“If it’s outdoors, golfing, ziplines, hiking, boating, fishing, biking and more, the chances are that Branson has it,” Branson Tourism Center’s Garrison said.  “It’s really neat how all the outdoor activities conveniently combine with Branson’s live shows, attractions, and everything else into a virtually seamless vacation experience.

There’s two major firework displays at dusk on Sunday evening, May 28. One is at the Chateau on the Lake, as part of its Memorial Day Celebration, and the other at Big Cedar Lodge, as part of its Patriotic Picnic and Fireworks event. The public is invited to both; with the best views from Table Rock Lake, the property’s grounds or, in the case of the Chateau on the Lake, the peninsula area located just north of the Table Rock Dam to the west of its auxiliary spillways on State Highway 165.

Garrison stresses that Memorial Day Weekend is one of Branson’s busiest. He suggests advance reservations to ensure availability of the best lodging and show seating. For more information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center by either calling their toll-free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

* Schedules subject to change and not all artists are appearing every day.

“Branson” is open and overflowing with fun, adventure, and excitement!

Like all of the shows, attractions, and shopping Branson is noted for, Silver Dollar City, Legends in Concert and the Titanic Museum Attraction are open.

Current news and social media stories create the perception that there’s wide-spread flooding in Branson. Nothing could be further from the truth! The “Branson” millions of tourists enjoy each year is not flooding. It’s open and offering all the fun, adventure, and excitement it’s famous for!

Here’s some answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about flooding in Branson:

When the media reports “Branson flooding,” what’s flooding? An extremely small number of homes and businesses, most of which are not even in Branson. They are in low-lying areas along Lake Taneycomo and its tributaries and are susceptible to flooding following periods of high rain. It gets worse when the flooding is accompanied by the release of water through the turbines and spillways of Table Rock Dam into Lake Taneycomo. These releases are necessary to lower the levels of Table Rock Lake back below the top of its Flood Pool.

Except for those located directly on the Lake Taneycomo and Table Rock Lake shorelines, there is no impact on the shows, attractions, activities and other things that the vast majority of visitors to “Branson” enjoy doing. But for the news and social media reports, videos, and pictures, the typical visitor would not even know that there had been any flooding.

Isn’t that kind of heartless, “promoting tourism” while some are flooded? No. First and foremost, the community takes care of the needs of those impacted by the flooding. In concert with that, it strives to make sure that the area’s primary source of income, for some of them and many others, tourism, is not adversely impacted because of a mistaken perception created by news and social media sensationalism.

Is most of “Branson” flooded? No! Media reports aside, the “Branson” that millions of tourists enjoy each year is neither flooded or impacted by the flooding. This includes Silver Dollar City; Branson shows, attractions, restaurants, and shopping on the famed “Branson Strip;” the restaurants and stores in “Branson Landing;” and just about everything else Branson offers.

What are “those businesses located directly on the Lake Taneycomo and Table Rock Lake shorelines?” The Lake Taneycomo shoreline would include Scotty’s Trout Dock; the City of Branson’s Lake Side RV Camp Ground; Main Street Lake Cruises, The Paddlewheel; Bass Pro Shops’ White River Fish House; the Branson Landing boardwalk, and the Branson Landing Fountains with their spectacular fire and light show. The Table Rock shoreline would include the State Park Marina, and Moon Shine Beach and Launching Ramp as well as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and privately owned campgrounds. It also includes hotels, cabins, or other Branson lodging facilities located on the shorelines of either Lake Taneycomo or Table Rock Lake.

Doesn’t Branson Landing Flood? The shopping and restaurants available on the famed Branson Landing Promenade are not impacted by flooding. They are located well above the shoreline of Lake Taneycomo. Some of the lower areas of the Bass Pro parking lot, as well as its board walk, and the Branson Landing Fountains will flood. Even then however, except during the initial stages of “flash flooding,” there is usually plenty of parking available. If per chance there is not, just go up into historic downtown Branson and take the free trolley back to Branson Landing.

How does “flash flooding” impact the situation? When it occurs, a lot. Its impact depends on many different factors and is as uncontrollable as it is unpredictable, except for one thing. Soon after the rain causing the “event” stops, the higher water levels caused by the event will drop very quickly

What about the news and social media articles, reports, pictures and videos showing flooding in “Branson?” Answering the question, “Is this a picture of anything that will impact what it is I want to see or do in Branson?” will help keep things in perspective. The answer will be “No” about 99.9% if the time.

How much water must come through Table Rock Dam’s Spillways and Turbines before there’s flooding? Anything can happen initially with “flash flooding,” but typically there’s no flooding, if there’s 25,000 cfs or less coming through the dam’s spillways and turbines.

If you have any questions about the current conditions in Branson, or questions about Branson’s incredible shows, attractions, or lodging, please don’t hesitate to contact the Branson Tourism Center and talk with one of their Branson based Vacation Specialists at 1-800-785-1550. They’ll also be delighted to help with making show, attraction, or lodging reservations and get you the best available show seats and lodging. There is no charge for this service and they are available daily, except Christmas Day, from 8:00 AM to 9.30 PM. The Branson Tourism Center can also be reached through its website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Epic fun is never “seasonal” in Branson

The Titanic Museum Attraction boards passengers for a unique "voyage" regardless of the weather.

The Titanic Museum Attraction, celebrating its 10th season in Branson during 2016,  boards passengers for a unique “voyage” regardless of the season.

The word ‘seasonal’ is commonly used as a term of limitation. Based on 29 years of living here, I would suggest that when used in connection with Branson, it might relate to locally produced fruits and vegetables, certain outdoor aquatic activities or attractions, weather, shows, or any one of a myriad of other things; but one thing that is never “seasonal” in Branson is epic fun!

Sure, by the end of Christmas Week, all of Branson’s great live shows will have held their last 2015 performance, and there will be a lull as they prepare for 2016. Most Branson visitors will not be swimming or boating on one of Branson’s pristine lakes – Table Rock, Taneycomo, or Bull Shoals – or enjoying weather-dependent attractions, such as Silver Dollar City, until they reopen in the spring. Does that mean the end of fun in Branson until the spring? Absolutely not!

The vast majority of Branson’s attractions, such as the Titanic Museum Attraction, The Track Family Fun Parks, and many others, remain open for the fun, excitement, and enjoyment of Branson visitors year round. Great Branson shows like Grand Jubilee, Amazing Pets, Comedy Jamboree, and others, start their 2016 performances as early as January 1, with other shows opening gradually throughout the spring season. Branson Tourism Center maintains two of the most up-to-date lists of Branson shows and attractions available anywhere. These lists are updated on a daily basis as more information becomes available.

Love the fun and adventure of outdoor activities? Branson’s relatively mild and fluctuating winter weather permits a variety of year round outdoor activities, like golf, hiking, biking, fishing, boating, and more. Weather permitting, the majority of Branson’s golf courses, such as Branson Hills, Pointe Royale, and Thousand Hills, are open year round. World-class fishing for bass and trout continues throughout the year, and hiking and biking on Branson’s trails during the late fall and winter months is less crowded, permitting more accessible views of wildlife, birds, lakes, and other things not normally visible at other times of the year.

The world-class fun and excitement of the Branson shopping experience knows no season; it never stops! Branson Landing, anchored by Bass Pro Shops and Belk, features dozens upon dozens of local and national retailers and specialty shops; its selection of fine dining, casual eateries, intimate cafes, and its lake shore setting provides an unequaled shopping experience. Its spectacular $7.5 million water fountain attraction, featuring the first-ever merging of water, fire, light, and music, depending on the daily weather conditions, operates year round. Where else, regardless of the season, can you shop, dine, and experience a free choreographed show with water shooting 120-foot geysers, and fire cannons blasting fireballs into the air? Only at Branson Landing!

And that’s just one of many shopping districts in the area. The unique shops and galleries of historic downtown Branson, including “Dick’s 5 & 10;” the dozens of specialty shops offering arts and crafts and one-of-a-kind items; and the outlet centers such as Tanger Outlets and The Shoppes at Branson Meadows, which are open year round, are just a sampling of the shopping available in Branson.

Sure, it’s a different Branson during the winter months, but it’s a Branson that’s full of fun and exciting things to do, while offering it in a more relaxed atmosphere. Please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, at 1-800-785-1550, for additional information, show and attraction tickets, or for lodging arrangements.

Mother Nature’s amazing Ozark’s Fall Foliage Show premiering soon in Branson

The first blush of the color to come spreads across a scenic Ozark vista.

The first blush of the color to come spreads across a scenic Ozarks vista.

For a limited time, Branson’s shows won’t be the only live entertainment in Branson! From the first tint of color, until the last leaf falls, the fall foliage of the Ozark Mountains provide one of Mother Nature’s most amazing and beautiful shows. If the past is any indication, and everything keeps on going like it’s been going, visitors to Branson can expect a spectacular fall foliage show this year!

Frances Main, a Forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said that the moisture this summer, all the good leaves on the trees, and the weather thus far portends a good foliage season that should peak during about the second week in October. She points out that it’s the cool nights followed by bright sunny days that really help bring out the brilliant colors; it starts in mid-September when species such as Walnut and Hickory start changing and really coloring up; the Oaks, Maples, Persimmon, and other trees and bushes start to change shortly thereafter. Click here for more information on “Why Leaves Change Color” from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“It will be a magnificent, one-of-a-kind sight to behold,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center.  “One of our most asked questions is, ‘What’s the best way to see the foliage?'” Wood says that one of the neat things about the fall foliage in the Branson area is that there really is no one best way to see it because just about everywhere one turns they will be surrounded by its vibrant, colorful beauty.

That said, however, Wood points out that it’s hard to top the magnificent view of the Ozark’s foliage from the lofty heights of the 230-foot-tall Inspiration Tower. Located on top of Inspiration Point at the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead, one of the highest points in southwest Missouri, it provides a unique and unparalleled panoramic view of the Ozarks’ countryside. Glass elevators transport guests up to the enclosed observation deck from which, on a clear day, they can see over 90 miles covering hundreds of square miles that presents a spectacular view of the fall foliage not available anywhere else.

There are a number of “Scenic Lookouts” that provide a superb panoramic view of the Ozark’s fall foliage. These include the Lookouts on State Route 165, about a mile south of its intersection with State Route 265, the Table Rock Dam Overlook, located on the south end of Table Rock Dam across the road from the Visitors Center, and the Henning Conservation Area Lookout, located about a mile west of the junction of State Route 76 and State Route 376 on the north side of the road.

Another excellent panoramic view of Branson’s beautiful fall colors is provided at “Point Lookout” on the campus of the College of the Ozarks. Located on top of a bluff overlooking Lake Taneycomo, it provides a unique view of Branson’s fall foliage not available anywhere else. With the lake as a backdrop, it’s simply breathtaking. While at the college, you might want to eat at the Keeter Center, visit the Edwards Grist Mill, or enjoy the Ralph Foster Museum.

Branson Tourism Center’s Wood also suggests two other ways to enjoy the fall colors in Branson: from the vintage dome cars of the Branson Scenic Railway, and from the deck of the Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake. They both provide unique panoramic views of Branson’s fall foliage.

Six great reasons why you should take your family on a one-of-a-kind Lake Taneycomo sightseeing cruise aboard the Lake Queen

Main Street Lake Cruises "Lake Queen" cruising Lake Taneycomo.

Main Street Lake Cruises “Lake Queen” cruising Lake Taneycomo.

“Our goal is to provide our passengers with a unique, exciting, and unforgettable experience that will become a special part of their favorite Branson memories,” said Steve Johnson, the General Manager of Main Street Lake Cruises. “A cruise aboard the 84 foot long riverboat replica Lake Queen is reminiscent of the boats and the White River that played such an important part in Branson’s early history; it’s truly a one of a kind adventure produced by Mother Nature,” he added.

Here are some things you should know about taking your family on an amazing sightseeing cruise aboard the Lake Queen:

1. It’s Safe: The safety of you and your family is foremost. The Lake Queen and its crew are licensed, and the boat is inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard on a regular basis.

2. Full Modern Amenities: The Lake Queen is fully handicap accessible and offers modern amenities including full-sized modern restrooms, a well-stocked bar, snack food service, a fully enclosed environmentally conditioned lower deck and an open-air upper deck.

3. Enjoy Sights Never Seen by the Vast Majority of Branson’s Millions of Visitors Each Year: These sights include a unique mid-lake view of Branson Landing and its $7.5 million fountain, a spectacular synchronized fire, water, light, and music show; one of Missouri’s largest Blue Heron Rookeries; amazing bluffs carved naturally by Mother Nature over the centuries; spectacular Ozark vistas; and much more.

4. See Ozarks’ Birds and Other Wildlife: From your vantage point aboard the Lake Queen you’ll come upon the birds and other wildlife that abound on Lake Taneycomo and its shoreline. You could see deer, mink, river otters, the great blue heron, bald eagles, various species of ducks, Canada geese and other geese, as well as many other species.

5. Fully Narrated: Although there is plenty of time to relax and just enjoy the serenity of being on the lake, the Captain will provide a live, interesting narrative of what you’ll be seeing, both fixed and spontaneous sights … a bald eagle sitting in a tree, or a mink scurrying along the shoreline, or any number of things that just can’t be planned!

6. Relaxing: Whether you enjoy it inside the climate controlled lower deck, or in the fresh air of the open top deck, it’s hard to imagine anything more relaxing than cruising on Lake Taneycomo aboard the Lake Queen while enjoying the peace and serenity of the Ozarks.

For additional information or tickets for a cruise aboard the Lake Queen, please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Open dam gates bode well for amazing summer fun on Table Rock Lake

Turbine outlets for Table Rock Lakes Generation Units showing only Units 1 and 2 operating.

Turbine outlets for Table Rock Lakes Generation Units showing only Units 1 and 2 operating.

Many were surprised when the Corps of Engineers opened eight of the 10 spillways on Table Rock Dam at about noon on May 12, 2015. Not to worry; the release has more to do with a maintenance problem than any abnormal water level problems. James Sandberg, the Operations Project Manager responsible for all of the Corps operations at Table Rock Lake said that during the storms last weekend they lost a “transformer differential” and were forced to shut down two of the dams four generators, “Units 3 and 4.”

The Current Power Pool (Normal) Level as of May 12 is 916.3 on its way to the lakes “Summer Power Pool Level of 917.0 on June 1. The actual current level of Table Rock Lake, as of 3:00 p.m. on May 12 was 917.74. Sandburg said, “Since the lake is predicted to crest at 918 msl, we are required to release 15K CFS [Cubic Feet Per Second]. We can only pass approximately 7K through Units 1 & 2, so we will be spilling approximately 8K CFS through the spillway…” He went on to say that the total discharge is the same as it would have been if all four Units were generating power and that he expects the operation to continue this way until the lake gets back to below a level of 917.0.

The latest levels for Table Rock Lake indicate that it has crested at 917.74 and has started to drop. If that holds and history is any gauge, absent heavy rains in the near future, the level of Table Rock Lake should reach 917.0 over the weekend of May 15.

“That’s great news,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services and sellers of Branson show and attraction tickets and lodging. “Table Rock Lake will be at its normal summer capacity as the tourism season starts, offering Branson visitors a virtual aquatic paradise of a full 43,100 surface acres and 745 miles of shoreline for fishing, boating, swimming, water sports and fun to enjoy,” she continued.

 

Did you know this about the US Army Corps of Engineers and Table Rock Lake?

Jim Sanderg, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Table Rock Lake  Operations Project Manager of Table Rock lake

Jim Sanderg, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Table Rock Lake Operations Project Manager of Table Rock lake

When Table Rock Dam was completed in 1959 it formed Table Rock Lake, with its 43,100 surface acres and 745 mile shoreline of aquatic fun, adventure and scenic beauty. Along with Silver Dollar City and Branson’s live shows,it is one of the lynchpins that helps make Branson such a wonderful unique travel destination.

Table Rock Lake is owned, managed and controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, (Corps). The Corps is directly involved in all aspects of the lakes use, both by daily visitors and the many commercial operations on the lake that enhances its recreational value. Recently, the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) had the opportunity to interview Mr. James Sandberg (JS), the Operations Project Manager responsible for all of the Corps operations at Table Rock Lake. His responses and insights are presented below in a “Q and A” format.

BTC: What is your position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and what does it entail?
JS: Operations Project Manager. I am responsible for all of the operations here at Table Rock Lake including natural resource management, recreation, flood damage reduction, hydro power operations and serve as the liaison between the public and our District office in Little Rock.

BTC: How long have you been at Table Rock Lake?
JS: I started as a Park Ranger in 1989 left for another assignment in 2002 and have had my current position since December of 2006.

BTC: What were the three main reasons Table Rock Dam was built?
JS: First and foremost, flood damage reduction, then hydropower and water supply.

BTC: Water supply?
JS: The allocation for water was for the fish hatchery [Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery] just below the dam. Right now there is no allocation for residential/domestic use.

BTC: Where does recreation and fishing come in under that hierarchy?
JS: Recreation is one of the Corps missions, but it was not one of the authorized purposes of the project. Recreation is an authorized mission, as well as natural resources, but we do not make any changes on the management of the Water Control Plan based on recreation or natural resource management.

BTC: Why do the “normal,” levels of Table Rock Lake fluctuate from 915 feet to 917 feet at different times of the year?
JS: We maintain a “normal conservation level” of 915 above MSL between December 1 and May 31 when it is increased to a “seasonal conservation level” of 917 above MSL until November 30. The increased level is authorized by the Water Control Plan so that we can make the minimum releases during that period required to maintain oxygen levels and water temperature downstream for the trout fishery.

BTC: Does the Corps manage tourism related activities on Table Rock Lake?
JS: Yes, we have 12 recreation areas that we run and 15 commercial marinas that we manage for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. In addition, we have more than 100 “Limited-Motel Resort” leases we manage that support recreational activities and tourism on Table Rock Lake.

BTC: So if there is a resort, marina or other business operation on Table Rock Lake it is operated in co-operation with the Corps?
JS: Correct. Table Rock Lake is a federally owned project and owns the vast majority of the lakes shoreline. As a general rule any commercial business on Table Rock Lake operates through a lease or other agreement with the Corps.

BTC: What are the primary Corps facilities or managed areas that Branson visitors are most likely to come in contact with?
JS: Table Rock State Park and the State Park Marina, the Dewey Short Visitors Center at Table Rock Dam, the recreation areas [which include camp grounds and boat launching ramps] at Indian Point, Cricket Creek Old Highway 86, as well as Mill Creek and Aunts Creek and of course “Moon Shine Beach” located on the north end of Table Rock Dam which is one of our most popular areas.

BTC: What is the impact of Table Rock Lake on tourism in the Branson area?
JS: I think it is a big part of the recreation and tourism in the Branson area. I have been given some number that recreation in Stone and Taney Counties is a two to three billion dollar industry of which Table Rock Lake is directly responsible for about 25% of that. It is estimated that visitors to just the Corps operated recreation areas spend about $60 million per year in the local economy and that’s not counting the other areas on Table Rock Lake such as Big Cedar, Chateau on the Lake, Table Rock State Park and Marina and the other commercial marinas, resorts etc. operating in cooperation with the Corps.

BTC: In closing, what one thought would you like to leave with our readers?
JS: The Corps wants to make sure that we maintain the resources that we have at Table Rock Lake so locals, visitors and their families can enjoy them now and that future generations will also be able to enjoy this precious resource. We want to be proactive in protecting the lake to make sure that it stays the lake that we all enjoy today.

 

 

Hatchery hatches more than trout for Branson visitors

Visitor's Center of Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery with Table Rock Dam in the background.

Visitor’s Center of Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery with Table Rock Dam in the background.

From its 43,000 plus surface acre water playground, Table Rock Lake, to attractions, museums, shopping, theme and water parks and over 100 live shows of every kind Branson, Missouri offers a bewildering number of things to see and do. “Many like Silver Dollar City, Branson’s great live shows and the Titanic Museum Attraction, to name a few, are well known,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Among the lesser known things to do is the opportunity for Branson visitors to experience the “Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery” at the foot of Table Rock Dam,” she added.

The “Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery,” is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation and is part of a 211 acre complex including a “Conservation Center” consisting of trails, a wild life refuge, and a Visitor Center. It is located less than 10 minutes from the famed “Branson Strip,” just off of State Highway 165 at the foot of Table Rock Dam.

The hatchery was built in conjunction with the building of Table Rock Dam because the cold water passing through the dams generators to generate electricity was ideal for Rainbow and Brown trout, but would have a a negative impact on the warm water species prevalent before the dam was built. With the completion of the dam, the first trout were stocked in Lake Taneycomo in 1959.

As a result, Lake Taneycomo, has become one of the finest trout fisheries in America with one of its outfitters, River Run Outfitters, actually winning the coveted “Orvis Outfitter of the Year Award,” in 2006, over outfitters in the other states that are legendary for their trout fishing.

In terms of raw numbers the hatchery produces over 1.1 million Rainbow and Brown Trout annually, of which about 475,000, 10 to 12 inch trout are included in the 700,000 plus trout stocked in the lake annually. The other 225,000 trout that go into Lake Taneycomo each year come from federal hatcheries, primarily Neosho, which are required by federal law to replace the “warm water” species that the building of Table Rock Dam displaced.

Hatchery visitors are welcome to tour the “race ways,” “trout runs,” by themselves during normal business hours and will see thousands of trout in the various stages of development from the large “brood stock” used to produce them to the smallest of trout. In addition, guided tours of the hatchery depart the Visitors Center from Memorial Day to Labor Day on weekdays at 10 and 11 AM and 1 and 2 PM. The Visitor Center opens at 9:00 AM every day except, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Displays of wildflowers and plants common to the Ozarks are displayed in a natural setting, with most being identified, in the area just outside the Visitor’s Center. Activities inside the Center include a nature display, a huge aquarium with “lunker” Brown and Rainbow Trout and an informative 15 minute “movie” showing how the how the hatchery produces the trout that has made Lake Taneycomo the prime trout fishery that it is.

The Visitor Center also has volunteers and Department of Conservation personnel available to answer questions as well as maps and information showing the system of four trails that winds through the undeveloped area of the Conservation Center. These trails vary in length and are ideal for families to share together. The “White River Corridor Trail” is particularly enjoyable because it parallels Lake Taneycomo for almost its entire length, is only 0.4 of a mile in length, one way, and provides a spectacular “kaleidoscope” view of the fog shrouding Lake Taneycomo early on warm summer mornings burning off as the sun rises.

Except for a coin operated dispenser for trout food for those wanting to feed the trout in the raceways, all the activities at the hatchery are free. Whether it’s a few minutes or a few hours, The Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery is another one of those things that makes Branson, Missouri the memorable unique travel destination it is.

Branson earns Traveler’s Choice for Top 25 U. S. Destinations

Main Street Cruise's Landing Princess and Lake Queen viewing Branson Landing's spectacular Water and Fire Show.

Main Street Cruise’s Landing Princess and Lake Queen viewing Branson Landing’s spectacular Water and Fire Show.

“Branson visitors are just amazing,” said Annette Wood, director of sales and marketing, for the Branson Tourism Center. “What a humbling experience that so many of them would take the time to comment on TripAdvisor® that Branson, a little town in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, would, for the first time, make the top 25 List of U.S. Destinations in ‘TripAdvisors® 6th Annual Traveler’s Choice Destination Awards’ along with cities such as New York, Orlando, and New Orleans,” she added. Joining Branson, who was number 19 on the list, as “newbies to the top 25 was San Diego (7), Austin (18), Atlanta (20), Phoenix (21), St. Louis (23) and Nashville (24).

In announcing the awards, Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor said, “If you’re looking for trip inspiration, look no further than the Travelers’ Choice Destinations.” The award is based on the “quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for hotels, attractions and restaurants in destinations” that are “gathered over a 12-month period.” The description accompanying the award listing highlighted the number and variety of Branson shows, the natural beauty of the Ozarks and the “great fishing, hiking, biking and water sports” available in Branson.

Larry Milton, owner of Main Street Lake Cruises whose two boats, the Lake Queen and the Landing Princess, are featured in the illustration of the description accompanying the award listing said, “How neat is that, Branson is featured in the top 25 of this award list because of the efforts that travelers to Branson have made based on their own great Branson experiences. What a testimony to the efforts of our entertainers, shows, attractions, lodging providers and everyone else in Branson’s tourism industry who help provide our guests with that great experience.”

Branson Tourism Center’s Wood invites everyone to visit Branson and experience firsthand why this special little town nestled in the Ozarks is listed as one of the top 25 destinations in the U.S. For information on Branson shows, attractions, lodging and everything else that Branson offers please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center toll free at 1-800-875-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.