The city of Branson is a great place to vacation – there are countless theatre attractions, multiple shopping malls, a bounty of bluegrass venues, great restaurants, and then some. But what does Branson have to offer adventurers who just want to get out of Dodge? If hiking, fishing, bird watching, horseback riding or flower gathering sounds more enticing than shows and shopping, the state parks near Branson are sure to become some favorite hotspots.
Table Rock State Park
Table Rock State Park is one of the most popular state parks around the Branson area. Located off of Highway 165, a few miles southeast of town, this park showcases one of Missouri’s most historic lakes. Table Rock Lake came to be in the 1950s when the Table Rock Dam was built along the White River; it is named after a large rock shelf set about one mile downstream from the dam site. (To learn more about the dam, visit the Dewey Short Visitor Center, next to the lake on Highway 165) Today, Table Rock State Park offers a multitude of recreational activities. There is a lakeside marina, where water enthusiasts can rent kayaks, WaveRunners, fishing boats, and the like. Fishing is a popular pastime at Table Rock – the lake is known for its bass, catfish and crappie. There are several good swimming locations along the shoreline, many of them near picnic sites. If you fall in love with the lake and want to stay awhile, the park offers two campgrounds right next to the water for your enjoyment.
Roaring River State Park
Roaring River State Park is as beautiful and intriguing as its name. Located 35 miles west of Branson, off of Farm Road 2239 in Cassville, Missouri, this state park reigns supreme as far as trout fishing goes – it is known to be one of the best trout locations in the nation. Roaring River became a state park in 1928 when a St. Louis businessman named Thomas Sayman purchased 2,400 acres along the river and donated his purchase to the state. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources now manages the park. Seven different hiking trails take explorers deep into the rugged beauty of the Roaring River terrain. If hiking is not your forte, stop in and stay awhile at the Chinquapin Nature Center and learn about the natural history of the park. The river itself is stocked with trout daily by the parks’ hatchery; fisherman can process their catch at the parks’ cleaning and fillet station. Roaring River also hosts many naturalist events, such as wildflower workshops, free fishing days, and eagle watches.
Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area
Busiek State Forest is one of the steepest, rockiest, most Ozarkian original of the state parks near Branson. Located fourteen miles north of Branson, directly off of Highway 65, Busiek encompasses 2,505 acres of beautiful Missouri wilderness. Five miles of nature trails with varying degrees of difficulty offer great hiking, wildlife watching and photographic opportunities. Hunting, fishing and camping are also available in the state forest with permits obtained from the Missouri Department of Conservation. If you are an equine enthusiast, Busiek offers some of the best, most challenging horseback riding terrain in Southwest Missouri – you’ll want to pack a lunch and your saddlebags and stay all day!
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park (not a state park, but well worth the visit!) is located south of Branson and sixteen miles west of Highway 65, and offers visitors some of the Ozarks’ most spectacular scenery on the Missouri/Arkansas border. It is a spectacular experience you won’t want to miss! Dogwood Canyon is tailor-made for the outdoor enthusiast; the park offers hiking and walking trails, fishing, and fly fishing clinics, back country jeep tours, wildlife tram tours, guided trail rides and authentic horseback cattle drives, where guests ride all day driving Texas Longhorns to fresh pastures – a chuck wagon lunch is included! There is sure to be something for everyone at Dogwood Canyon.
There is a little bit of everything at the state parks near Branson. If the great outdoors is what you’re after, you’re sure to find it here!