Trailering Magazine Archives - Destinations

Night Music on the Ozarks...
Branson and Table Rock Lake

It was a television show that brought the first million people to Branson, Missouri. In 1991, "60 Minutes" did a segment about a place in the Ozarks with live entertainment every day of the week by country music stars. Correspondent Morley Safer introduced viewers to a place that is quickly becoming "a county music mecca." And then he paused, looked at the camera and asked a question: "Branson, Missouri?"

A decade later, there is no question this place calling itself the "Live Entertainment Capital of the World" can back up the hype with fact. More than seven million people visited Branson last year, eating at 356 restaurants, staying in 22,500 hotel rooms or 1,467 campsites and watching live shows in one of 59,266 theater seats in 49 separate theaters. Here's another fact: That's more seats than can be found in New York City's theater district.

While almost 90% of those visiting Branson are there to see a show and shop in one (or more) of the 200 retail outlets, one out of four tourists seek to be on, or in, the water. Table Rock Lake is one of three lakes just outside Branson that is a draw to the boater with a trailer. One reason is the world-class bass fishing. Another is its accessibility (there are numerous boat ramps along its 745 mile shoreline) from a variety of resorts and parks. Lake Taneycomo's cold water attracts superb trout fishing (but keep in mind the water temperature isn't conducive to swimming) while the more remote Bull Shoals Lake (with 19 separate parks) is on the circuit for numerous bass association tournaments. Those who have fished all three lakes strongly recommend having a fish finder on board because of the variety of thermoclines, or water temperatures, where specific fish can be found.

Table Rock Lake is the second reservoir created by a dam built on the White River in 1958. The James River and Flat Creek flow into the lake from the north and the White River and King River are at the southern end. In between, Table Rock has numerous quiet coves and shear rock bluffs along its shore. The bottom is a hardwood forest with some treetops peaking out of the water at certain times of the year. Because the underwater trees provide excellent cover, Table Rock is considered one of the best fishing venues in the country. In fact, the 5th Annual Amateur Bass Fishing Contest is underway now through Memorial Day with a $20,000 top prize. Fishermen need to be aware Table Rock and Bull Shoals most -western edges are in Arkansas so Missouri boating and fishing regulations will no longer apply although both states have worked to enact similar laws during the past year. Still, it is worth the time to make sure you are operating within the rules of the state you are fishing.

Water-skiing and parasailing are popular lake activities. And wakeboarding is becoming more and more common behind a runabout. It was on Table Rock Lake a few years ago that 16-year old Joey Arcisz took his first wakeboard ride. Today he is ranked #4 in the Junior Men World Championship standings. Another favorite activity is spelunking (after all, Missouri is not only the "Show Me State" but also 'The Cave State) so touring the many caves that are found in the rock formations of the Ozark range is a daily event for visitors.

Branson was the setting for Harold Bell Wright's 1907 best-selling Civil War novel "The Shepherd of the Hills" which has been made into four different movie versions. But it is the music that has always brought people to the city beginning in 1959 with the Baldknobbers Jamboree on the shores of Lake Tanneycomo two nights a week. Just five years earlier, legendary country singer Red Foley hosted "Ozark Jamboree," one of the first network television shows from nearby Springfield. The area's phenomenal growth began after 1983 when Roy Clark was the first to open a celebrity theater in town. Today Mel Tillis, the Lennon Sisters, Yakov Smirnoff, Shoji Tabuchi, Jim Stafford, the Osmond Brothers, Mickey Gilley, Bobby Vinton, Moe Bandy and Andy Williams are on stage performing nightly (and at some theaters in the afternoon too). This fact alone is the reason motorcoaches from all over the country come to Branson filled with music lovers eager to see and greet their favorite entertainers. In the summer, you will see hundreds of buses and RV's along "the strip" (highway 76 which is the main road into town).

A Veterans Memorial Museum opened last October in Branson featuring artifacts from World War I to the Gulf War. A World War II P-51 Mustang is mounted outside the museum. Inside are five halls including a wall with 400,000 names of men and women killed during World War II.

This is a place that caters to the trailer boater. Camping is available throughout the area and there are many modern hotels for use during that extended fishing or boating vacation. Branson sells itself as a family center and it has delivered on that promise with numerous amusement parks, go-kart tracks, swimming pools and shopping outlets. Morley Safer may have had questions ten years ago about Branson but it is all too clear those questions have been answered many times over.

For More Information
  1. Veterans Memorial Museum 417-336-2300 www.veteransmemorialbranson.com
  2. Branson Chamber of Commerce 800-368-1441 www.bransonchamber.com
  3. Missouri Department of Conservation (fishing information) 573-751-4115
  4. Shepherd of the Hills Homestead 800-653-6288 www.oldmatt.com

Distances:

From St. Louis…250 miles
From Kansas City…220 miles
From Springfield, Missouri…39 miles