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Places Visited:

Missouri: Branson, Big Cedar Lodge, Table Rock Lake, Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery

2003 Travelogue# 8 Branson, MO

Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Branson, MO
Mileage: 40664 Traveled 69 miles
Musicland Kampground, 116 N Gretna Rd, 65616 417-334-0848
Full Hookups, 50-amps, gravel pads, CATV, pool, store, $30 Good Sam discount, Passport America for 2 nights at $16 (NOT during high season of Aug, Sept, & Oct)

Branson, MO, 65 miles south of Springfield, was our destination today. It was misting rain and foggy as we left Marshfield and worked our way into the west bound traffic on busy Interstate 44. About 3 miles down the road, as I rounded a curve, I saw a major wreck in front of me on the eastbound side. At the same time I started picking up warnings on my CB radio that an accident had just occurred. The wreck was some 200 yards ahead of me and an 18-wheeler was barreling down in the "hammer lane" next to me. As he started to pass, he realized and I saw a large piece of tire tread (road gator) in his lane. He immediately hit his brakes and I could hear his trailer brakes "grabbing rubber". I thought he was going to "fish tail" into us, wipe out the "toad" and then hit the back of the Motor Home, but he was able to break, head to the inside shoulder and miss the "road gator" all at the same time. We were thankful to have made it through safely. It was so close and happened so fast that all one could do was work off of natural reflexes. Thank you Lord.

Continuing south, the clouds started breaking and the sun came out. It was going to be a beautiful day in the Ozark Mountains. US highway 65 from Springfield to Branson is four lanes and an easy drive as it slices through the middle of mountains, revealing interesting geological structures of layered rocks. When looking at the rocks, you can understand why they call the Lake, near Branson, Table Rock Lake. The rocks look like one tabletop stacked on top of another.

Branson is an interesting town, rising out of the Ozark Mountains, to become the "live music capital of the world" (another capital). The city has a rich history dating back to the late 1800's when Rueben Branson opened a general store, which became the first post office, giving birth to Branson. In 1894 William Lynch bought a cave 6 miles outside of Branson, which later became the heart of Silver Dollar City. In 1907 "The Shepherd of the Hills", a book written by Harold Wright about this area of the Ozarks, was published and became a nationwide best seller. Suddenly tourists began to come to this "Shepherd of the Hills Country" and the tourism industry was born.

The country music and "Ozark hillbilly" sound of Branson started in 1959 when "The Baldknobbers Hillbilly Jamboree Show" opened. The name, Baldknobbers, came from a vigilante group of the Civil War Era, which roamed the Ozark hills making their own justice.

Long before there was a Hwy 76, a second musical family, The Presley's, played to audiences in caves around Branson. By 1967, the caverns could no longer hold the packed crowds, and the Presley's opened the first theater on "The Strip" on Hwy 76, calling their show "Country Jubilee". In 1968, the Baldknobbers also moved their act to a theater on Hwy 76 and, as they say, "the rest is history". Today Branson has over 40 theaters with 60,000 seats and more than 70 live theater shows in production.

We checked into the Musicland Kampground and were guided to our site. After setup, we took a brief walk of the grounds, and then headed out in the Saturn for theater tickets. Our first selection for Tuesday night's performance was the "Shoji Tabuchi Show" with the Presley's "Country Jubilee" on Wednesday evening.

Shoji Tabuchi is Japanese and his bio is somewhat sketchy. We did pick up bits of information during his performance. As a young man in Japan practicing the violin, he heard Roy Acuff play the fiddle and was captured by the sound. He came to the States and spent 11 years in Bossier City, Louisiana, then went to Nashville. In 1989, Shoji Tabuchi opened a music show in Branson. He was so well received that he opened his own theater on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway in 1990. He puts on a stunning show from classical to bluegrass and the production, done by his wife, Dorothy, is outstanding. Their show came highly recommended and we were not disappointed. Also, if you get a chance to attend his show, don't miss the restrooms because they're a production in themselves and worth the price of admission.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Branson, MO

After our morning walk and breakfast, we drove south on US 65 to State Hwy 86 and the entrance of Big Cedar Lodge, "The Ozark's Premier Wilderness Resort" owned by the Bass Pro Shop. This is a "must see" if you are in the area. The grounds are manicured and beautifully landscaped with magnificent use of the area's natural rocks.

Prior to the establishment of Table Rock Lake, Big Cedar Lodge was developed as a private retreat for the Frisco Railroad Chief Operating Officer, Harry Worman. The big house (now the Worman House Restaurant), servant's quarters and stables were built on 160 acres in the early 1920's. There's an interesting story about Mr. Worman and his marriage to Dorothy, a lady 20 years younger.

Later in the 30's the Lodge was sold and operated as the Devil's Pool Dude Ranch through the 40's. Anticipating the construction of Table Rock Lake in the early 50's, a land development company bought the properties. After passing through several owners, a bankruptcy and a prolonged period of general neglect, the properties were purchased by the Bass Pro Shop. Many area craftsmen were brought to the resort and it has been restored it to original beauty and character.

The name Devil's Pool, was given to this large Ozark spring and well-known landmark, long before Table Rock Lake or a Branson existed. The Osage Indians called the spring "Spirit Pool" because they believed it to be bottomless and eventually arced up into the sky to the Great Spirit. The pool later became known as Devil's Pool by the pioneers who came west from Kentucky and Tennessee to settle the region. The Lake now covers the spring but when the water is low you can see the concrete and stone box built many years ago to contain the spring beneath the clear water. The water that flows through the fountains and waterfalls on the property today comes from the Devil's Pool Spring. We enjoyed walking the grounds as the first hint of fall was in the air.

While returning to Branson, we stopped at the Corp of Engineers Visitors Center for Table Rock Dam. We browsed the museum and bought a CD with Ozark musicians playing mountain music featuring the hammered dulcimer as lead instrument. It brought back memories of our daughter's wedding reception, in a Denver courtyard, where the dulcimer provided the background music.

Our next stop was the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery just below Table Rock Dam. Being the largest trout-rearing facility in the state, the Hatchery's Visitor Center had informative exhibits plus a film describing trout spawning, egg development and rearing techniques, and aquarian type tanks housing huge Rainbows and Browns. The Hatchery produces between 350,000 to 400,000 pounds of trout each year. Outside, we walked next to the rearing tanks and saw trout in different stages of their growth.

It was now time to return to the Motor Home, relax a little and prepare for the "Presley Family Country Jubilee". We did "strike out" in the food department on this trip. Guess you can't have it all!

The Presley Show was different from Shoji's, which was good, because we had variety. Shoji's was more of a Broadway-type production, while the Presley Show was something you'd expect to see in the Ozarks. The Presley's, with 7 or 8 family members plus others, performed country classics, new country, southern gospel, and comedy. It was a very entertaining and folksy show. We were pleased with both show selections.

Thursday we headed back to Marshfield for a big family "wing-ding" after the Cardinal game on Sunday. All the family will be in Marshfield through Monday. We expect to head east sometime Tuesday or Wednesday toward Cuba and Steelville.

Bob & Peggy Woodall
Branson, MO


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