BRANSON, MO, September 25, 2013 – From that first tint of color to the peaceful drift of cascading leaves falling from the trees, the foliage of the Ozark Mountains in Branson provides a beautiful canvas for one of Branson’s best shows, brought to you by Mother Nature. Foliage color typically comes with warm days and cool nights, according to Greg Cassell, Resources Forester for the Missouri Department of Conservation. He says the colors peak during the third week in October. And because of Branson’s designation as a “Tree City,” the area has learned to grow while still protecting this important part of the natural landscape.
“We had a pretty wet spring this year,” said Tammy Johnson, Director of Operations for Branson Tourism Center, “meaning the colors should be a visual delight for our visitors.” One of our visitor’s most common questions is, “What’s the best way to see the foliage?” Johnson responds that there really is no best way; fall beauty is simply there at just about every turn. With that said, Johnson suggests that your list of things not to miss should be topped by the “unique panoramic” view found from the deck of the Lake Queen, a historic paddlewheel boat operated by Main Street Lake Cruises. Using “up close” and “panoramic” together to describe this stunning view of the Ozark Mountains seems contradictory, but in the case of the Lake Queen, it’s the perfect way to describe the experience.
The Lake Queen cruises Lake Taneycomo, a long and narrow impoundment of the White River, with shorelines much closer together than what can be found on Table Rock Lake. A typical sightseeing cruise on the Lake Queen provides an up-close chance to view Branson’s abundant wildlife in its natural environment. The majestic bald eagle, the great blue heron, a variety of smaller birds, and deer are a common sight along the lake’s shoreline. You can enjoy the wildlife and panoramic vistas only found from your vantage point on the water. As the foliage changes color, these vistas turn into a magnificent canvas of nature’s painting.
Another unique fall view comes from the lofty heights of the 230-foot-tall Inspiration Tower located atop Inspiration Point, one of the highest points in southwest Missouri. Found at Shepherd of the Hills homestead, the tower provides an unparalleled panoramic view of the Ozarks’ foliage from a different perspective. Glass elevators transport guests up the enclosed observation deck from which, on a clear day, hundreds of square miles of foliage can be viewed as far as 90 miles away, presenting a spectacular view unmatched anywhere. Enjoy the view while leisurely strolling along the deck, or take a more thrilling sightseeing approach by zipping down from the tower on the Vigilante Ziprider. A quick trip in a comfy seat, hitting speeds up to 45 mph, and met at the bottom by a shuttle that will take you on a meandering trip through the beautiful Shepherd of the Hills’ grounds, returning you to the tower.
There are a number of scenic lookouts that provide a superb birds-eye view of the Ozarks’ fall foliage. These include 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 Dan, across the road from the Dewey Short 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. There are also scenic lookouts only minutes away in several of the small communities surrounding Branson.
Another excellent panoramic view is provided at Point Lookout on the campus of College of the Ozarks. Located atop a bluff overlooking Lake Taneycomo, it provides a unique vista of both Branson’s fall foliage and the narrow winding lake; a simply breathtaking sight. While at the College, you might plan to eat at the Keeter Center, famous for their massive Sunday brunch that features food raised or grown on campus. Include a visit to Edwards Grist Mill and one of the area’s best kept secrets, the Ralph Foster Museum, affectionately known as the Smithsonian of the Ozarks. The museum is home to one of the only remaining Beverly Hillbillies’ trucks featured on the beloved television show.
Branson Tourism Center’s Tammy Johnson will also tell you that a great way to see wide-ranging views of Branson’s fall foliage is aboard the Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake, or on the Branson Scenic Railway, a real old-fashioned steam engine train.