Written by Klaire Howerton
Posted by Mark Ruda
Table Rock Dam – The Functional Tourist Attraction
There is always a lot to do on and around the lakes near Branson, Missouri. There is fishing on Taneycomo and Bull Shoals, swimming and boating on Table Rock, hitting the water with Ride the Ducks or the Showboat Branson Belle – the list goes on and on. But if you’re interested in a lakeside attraction that is as unique and interesting as it is functional, consider taking a tour of the Table Rock Dam! You’ll get a firsthand look at the inner working of one of Missouri waterways’ most important landmarks.
Built in the mid-1950s, the Table Rock Dam was constructed as a means for flood control along the White River. Back then, floods were so bad that entire towns would be underwater and families would pack their children and their most valued possessions onto whatever floated until the water went down. Congressman Dewey Short (the Dewey Short Visitor Center is named in his honor) saw the great need for a means of flood control, and thanks to his efforts, construction began on what would become known as the Table Rock Dam. The dam was designed, built and then operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Today, it is not only critical to the lake levels of the Tri-Lakes area, but it is also one of the most popular visitor stops in the Ozarks. It is large enough to be viewed from the lake itself, and can also be seen from several hiking trails around the lake, the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery (located just below the dam on the Taneycomo side) and from the viewing deck of the Dewey Short Visitor Center. Highway 165 actually goes right over the top of the dam – so as you cruise along the lakeside, you’ll be driving over one of the most historic pieces of engineering history in the area.
If you really want an intimate look at the Table Rock Dam, take one of the guided walking dam tours that are offered daily from March through October and Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in November and December. Dam tours depart from the Dewey Short Visitor Center, and cost $14.50 for adults (ages 12 and up) and $8 for children (ages 6 to 11). Children under the age of six will NOT be admitted into the dam. Your tour will take you deep inside the inner workings of this hydro-electric dam, and you’ll see all of the work, knowledge and care that it takes to maintain not just the dam, but the lakes as well, in order to keep Missouri’s waterways running smoothly. The guided dam tours are a behind the scenes look that clean energy buffs and history fans alike will enjoy. Tour guests are asked to arrive at the visitor center thirty minutes PRIOR to the departure time. Be prepared to walk and climb stairs!
After a guided tour of the dam, you’ll want to take a peek in the Dewey Short Visitor Center – this ‘crown jewel of Table Rock Lake’ will give you even more information on hydro-electric power, the dam, and the events leading up to its construction.
So for a unique perspective on a real, ‘working’ tourist attraction, come take a look at the Table Rock Dam – from any angle, you’re sure to appreciate all that it does!