The Branson/Tri-Lakes area is well known across the country for – believe it or not – its lakes. Table Rock Lake is one of the most popular lakes around Branson – this man-made lake was created in the 1950s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when the dammed the White River as a measure of flood control along the waterway. The Table Rock Dam (named after a large rock shelf a mile upriver from the dam site) has a fascinating story – if you want to know all about it, visit the new Dewey Short Visitors Center for a flood of history, interactive displays, and more!
The Dewey Short Visitors Center, located directly off of Highway 165 next to the dam, is named after Congressman Dewey Jackson Short, a Republican U.S. Representative from Missouri’s 7th Congressional District and elected for a whopping twelve terms in office. Dewey Short was a staunch supporter of the Table Rock Dam and was one of the biggest advocates of getting the project funded – thanks to his efforts, construction on the dam began in 1954 and it was dedicated in 1959. Today, visitors to the Dewey Short Visitors Center can learn about the Congressman’s vision, the dam and so much more.
The visitors center itself is a very distinct, modern- style building perched on the shores of the lake. Opened in April of 2012, the visitors center is known as the “crown jewel” of Table Rock Lake. An outdoor viewing deck, a walking path, and a small rock garden with a wooden bridge are some of the visitor centers’ outside features. Inside, you’ll find a theater that shown a film about the dam to your left and to your right, you’ll find The Discovery Shop, one of the most unique Ozarks gift shops in the area. The Discovery Shop features many products from local artists and craftsmen such as jewelry and wood carvings. Hats, t-shirts and other fun Table Rock themed merchandise can be purchased here. Bird books, field guides and local history books can be found on the shelves, along with puzzles, science-centered games, and fun gadgets for little nature lovers like small clip-on compasses and bug catchers. Postcards that feature photos of the Dewey Short Visitors Center are available at the front desk. (Maps and pamphlets for the Tri-Lakes and Branson area can also be found here.) All purchases made at The Discovery Shop (excluding dam tour tickets) are tax exempt.
Downstairs in the visitors center, you will find the history of the dam displayed in wall murals and educational displays. There is a Native American artifact exhibit, where visitors can learn about the Indians that lived in this area. An interactive display board showing the entire length of the White River will walk you through what happens when rainfall causes the dam to be opened, or closed. You’ll learn about the inner workings of a hydroelectric dam and find out how much power it takes to hand crank enough electricity to an electric blender in yet another interactive exhibit. Water safety displays teach the importance of wearing a life jacket and following safe water/boating procedures while on the lake. If you’re interested in lakeside wildlife, you’ll love the wall to wall diorama room that showcases the fish, birds and other critters at Table Rock Lake and is painted in such a way that you feel immersed in the Ozarks’ wild beauty. A stop out on the viewing deck to snap photos of the dam will round out your visitors center tour!
The Dewey Short Visitors Center is one of the most interesting and educational places to visit in the Ozarks – and no trip to the lake is complete without a stop at the crowning jewel of Table Rock!