Getting a sense of Branson, Missouri, requires only three things: a five-string banjo, a bottle of moonshine and an unyielding sense of adventure to explore the great outdoors. At the crossroads of the South and Midwest, Branson sits deep in the Ozark Mountains along the banks of Lake Taneycomo. Locals enjoy a range of outdoor activities from fly-fishing and kayaking to hunting and camping in breathtaking natural surroundings, especially in the fall as foliage turns to molten shades of red, orange and brown.
John Morris, billionaire magnate and founder of Bass Pro Shops, spawned his sporting franchise from a small tackle and bait store located along the way to the Ozark town, where many fish on Table Rock Lake. After the mail-order sporting goods business rapidly grew into chain store locations across the country, Morris returned to the area and brought Bass Pro Shops to Branson Landing. He also constructed Big Cedar Lodge, a 4,600-acre lakeside retreat with 260 guest rooms housed in lodges, cottages and private log cabins. Grandview Conference Center brings the outdoors inside with wooden furniture, antler chandeliers and taxidermy throughout. It offers more than 20,000 sq. ft. of rustic meeting space.
Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trails is part of a network of 6,000 caves spread across the state. Guests of Big Cedar Lodge can explore the 2.5-mile path via golf cart, passing towering waterfalls, staggering rock formations and covered Amish bridges. But if that’s not enough, Dogwood Canyon waits farther down the road. Morris opened the 10,000-acre nature preserve to share his love of nature with the public. Riverbeds and streams are filled with several varieties of trout for the catch-and-release program, while bikes, jeeps and tram tours take visitors across the terrain, which crosses into Arkansas. At the top of several towering bluffs is a quiet meadow that harbors herds of bison, elk, whitetail deer and Texas Longhorn steer. The animals are used to human presence, coming close enough for a gentle greeting and a quick nibble.