I am tired of this coronavirus and think it’s time for a road trip. Branson has always been one of my favorite destinations.
I started going there in the early 1970s and still return for a story or just a chance to escape.
Branson is unique in offering family entertainment and a lot of the great outdoors. This region is framed by the beautiful Missouri/Arkansas Ozarks with forested hills, pristine lakes and clear, flowing streams.
By now many of you know I love fishing, but other lake activities are a great way to enjoy Branson. Water sports are available on each of the area’s great lakes, where guests can swim, water ski, wakeboard, tube, boat, sail, scuba dive, Jet Ski, parasail, ride a hydro-bike, paddleboard, kayak and canoe. That said, let’s talk about fishing.
Lake Taneycomo’s water comes from the bottom of Table Rock Lake, making it a cold-water lake perfect for trout fishing. The pristine, clear water is stocked annually with approximately 750,000 rainbow trout.
Several state record brown trout come from these waters and many believe the next world record is swimming in Taneycomo’s waters, making it a world-class fishery. Catching a big brown trout from here is not big news, but expected. I highly recommend Lilley’s Landing and guides Duane Doty or Brett Rader, if they’re not already booked. For more information on Lilley’s, call 417-334-6380.
There are a variety of fish to catch on nearby Table Rock Lake’s 800 miles of shoreline, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Kentucky bass, striped bass, white bass, rock bass, catfish, crappie, walleye, yellow perch, four species of sunfish and even paddlefish. Marinas offer boat and equipment rentals, or bring your own, as there are multiple public and privately-owned locations to access the lake.
You can get your exercise too. Branson has more than 200 miles of trails with varying lengths, offering natural views of water, woods and wildlife.
I enjoy taking the lunch or dinner cruises with well-done shows aboard the Showboat Branson Belle or the Spirit of America catamaran. The food is always excellent.
Trap or skeet shooting is available. We have done some supervised caving down there, and I understand some areas are offering geocaching. One of my favorites is ziplines throughout the hills and valleys at Shepherd of the Hills Adventure Park or at Branson Ziplines at Wolfe Creek Reserve – a chance to fly without an airplane.
In addition to all the outdoor opportunities in the Branson area, visit the Silver Dollar City theme park. For many years they have had some of the best rides in the area. They have several festivals during the year, so check their website at silverdollarcity.com. The park should soon be opened.
The Shepherd of the Hills play, however, has reopened. The Outdoor Show is happily the same with a new restaurant and other attractions. Check their website at theshepherdofthehills.org or call 417-334-4191.
One of my favorite Missouri attractions is the History of Fishing Museum in Branson. Their collection is considered to be the world’s most complete and represents everything that is collectible in antique tackle and fishing paraphernalia, including the first of many lures, reels and other items.
Over 40,000 fishing items are neatly laid out in cases and other displays. You will find Zane Grey’s rod and reel and Johnny Horton’s, Elvis’ and Johnny Cash’s manufactured lures.
Here is several one-of-a-kind items from their collection:
• Nut lures: The museum holds found the only existing set of bass lures made from nut shells.
• Spike reel from the 1730s, first reel known to exist. Made in Europe, these reels were used by American anglers.
• The Snyder reel from 1840 is the first casting reel made in the United States by George Snyder from Paris, Kentucky, and very rare.
• The Haskell minnow, made by Riley Haskell in 1859, is the first American plug-type bodied bait. The minnow imitation with a metal body and revolving tail has dual hooks that point upward. The lure was made in silver, copper, brass and bronze. The only Haskell found with the original box was a 10-inch copper musky sold in 2003 for $101,200 at auction.
• Comstock Flying Hellgrammite is the first wooden lure, made by Harry Comstock in 1883.
• The oldest patented piece in the collection is a Buel Trolling Spoon, which earned its patent in 1852, but the collection also includes fishing artifacts that date back to pre-colonial Native Americans and Eskimos. Newly added to the expansive collection are aquatic dinosaur bones and fish fossils.
Check out the History of Fishing Museum at 225 N. Wildwood Drive in Branson, call 417-239-FISH or visit the website, Historyoffishingmuseum.org.
Branson has many great restaurants and dinner shows. Play a round of golf on your choice of 10 world-class golf courses or have fun at one of the many miniature golf courses. The area, too, is loaded with nature parks, waterparks, museums and aquariums. Branson has over 100 shows playing throughout the year there are more seats than Broadway in Branson.
There, too, are many shopping opportunities in the area. Check out Crain’s Creations Gallery at 114 Main Street to see some world-class wildlife art. I love waterfowl, and Tom Crain has created some incredible original paintings.
Branson family-oriented RV parks and campgrounds are near and around the lakes. There, too, are log cabins, resorts, lodges or hotels, but make your reservations early. There are times throughout the year when lodging fills up.
Branson is a unique city. Some come to relax and recharge. Personally, I like to sit on Lilley’s Landing Taneycomo Trout Dock with a good cigar and watch the waters flow.
To visit Branson, call 800-296-0463 for a free vacation guide or more information.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.