World Facts Index > United States > Branson

The city of Branson was born in the early 1800s on a broad, flat plain along the White River just south of its confluence with Roark Creek. Buildings and roads eventually overtook the floodplain as the city grew westward up a gradually sloping ridge, creating what is now Bransons Historic Downtown District.

The waters of Lake Tanycomo tamed the temperamental White River in 1913, and now a patchwork of parks, campgrounds, shops and restaurants line the waterfront, creating a thriving shopping district at the eastern boundary of the city. Mile-long Lake Street harbors public fishing docks, broad, grassy parks, and remarkable dining experiences like Dimitris. This restaurant, anchored to the shore of Lake Tanycomo, offers gourmet meals in a floating dining room. Also anchored to the waterfront are the huge docks where The Lake Queen and the Sammy Lane Pirate Cruise sail for their half- or full-day excursions up and down the winding waterway of this crystal-clear lake. One block from shore, at the intersection of Boxcar Willie Drive and Main Street, is the depot for the Branson Scenic Railway. Main Street continues to climb west out of the White River Canyon, and a couple of blocks up from the tracks is the historic shopping district. One of the few surviving dime stores in the country, Dicks Oldtime 5 & 10, is a favorite among tourists and locals. Across the street is Hillbilly Moccasins, where you can find a little piece of the Ozarks to take home with you. If you continue west on Main Street, the peaceful, tree-lined tranquility of downtown gives way to the engine that powers Bransons economy: The Strip.

The Strip
This is what modern-day Branson is all about. Crammed into this seven-mile stretch of Missouri State Highway 76 are more than 60 restaurants, 70-plus hotels and motels and more than 30 live entertainment venues—not to mention dozens of shopping outlets and amusement parks. This is a wealth of live music, food and activities, and the traveling treasure hunters, mostly retirees and families, jam all four lanes of this road from April through September. On any given afternoon during the summer, traffic on The Strip moves literally at a snails pace and chances are, you will watch from the stationary comfort of your air-conditioned vehicle as pedestrians merrily wave as they pass you by.

Don't despair. With a little prudent planning, you can book a centrally located hotel near the shows you want to see and can avoid entering the frozen fray of Bransons infamous gridlock. The BoxCar Willie Hotel, on the western reaches of The Strip, is within walking distance to a 90-store outlet mall, museums, nine theaters, a dozen or so restaurants, go cart tracks, and amusement parks. You could spend a week taking in these attractions and never have to start your car. After a day running rapids and riding waterslides at White Water amusement park, you can feast on Bransons top-rated buffet at the Plantation Restaurant. You might end your day with the Sons of the Pioneers at Mickey Gilley Theatre - all this without walking more than a few hundred paces in any direction. The entire length of the Strip offers this sort of luxury. As you scoot along the sidewalks and wave at static motorists, you'll soon discover why those cheerful pedestrians were smiling as you sat in traffic only a few hours before.

Shepherd of the Hills
The congestion of The Strip gave rise to alternate routes through town. The second most popular motorway in the city runs parallel to The Strip along a ridgeline to the north. Missouri State Highway 248 was widened during the 80s and is now known as The Shepherd of the Hills Expressway, where existing shops and attractions were joined by hundreds of others as entrepreneurs clambered to procure prime space along this booming region of Branson. Separating this region from The Strip is the beautiful Roark Valley, with tree-lined roadways and peaceful, 62-acre Stockstill Park, where Roark Creek flows through a meticulously manicured grass meadow with picnic tables, ball parks, playground equipment and stately, ancient oak trees. Gretna Road bisects this northern district from the southwest to the northeast. Along this artery are three major factory outlet malls, The Factory Merchants Branson, Tanger Outlet Center and Factory Shoppes at Branson Meadows. Both locals and tourists come to find incredible bargains on name-brand apparel and other merchandise at these expansive market places. A number of fine hotels have been built here, gladly accepting the overflow of clients from the bustling Strip. The Cascades Inn is a splendid hotel that boasts 160 luxurious rooms. Less than a block to the west is the Shoji Tabuchi Theatre, where a Japanese violin virtuoso wows audiences during his nightly shows.

The Falls/College
The lumpy terrain that lies south of The Strip and north of Lake Tanycomo is the Falls District. This region of town embraces gorgeous scenery and sports intriguing geographic features like The Falls, Compton Ridge and Cooper Creek. Tucked into the wooded canyons and perched on the ridge tops are resorts, hotels and campgrounds too numerous to count. Cooper Creek slices southward through the limestone hills, and where it runs into Lake Tanycomo is the Cooper Creek Resort, where guests can forget the commotion and bustle of the entertainment district and relax while they wet a line and drown a worm at the resorts private fishing docks. Across the Lake is the historic College of the Ozarks, where students strive to avoid the distractions of Branson and work toward a four-year accredited degree.

Tanycomo South
Resorts and bed and breakfast inns line the southern shore of Lake Tanycomo and reach into the hidden seclusion of the wooded hills. A stay at the Kite House Historic Bed and Breakfast Inn gives you a taste of upper crust life of Bransons elite during the 1930s. A mile to the east is the Holiday Hills Resort & Golf Club.

Indian Point/West Branson
If you are truly searching for a selection of lakeside resorts, Indian Point offers a selection so vast, it borders on sensory overload. Literally hundreds of resorts, each with its own personality, are scattered across this arrowhead-shaped peninsula that juts south into Table Rock Lake west of Branson. But the most popular destination here is landlocked. Silver Dollar City is a multi faceted amusement park/living museum where actual residents dress in period costumes and illustrate what Ozark Mountain life was like at the turn of the century. While all these arts and crafts are fine to hold the attention of intrigued adults, kids from seven to 70 have shorter attention spans, so the park built fast-moving adrenaline-generating rides like Buzz Saw Falls to keep everyone happy. Adjacent to Silver Dollar City is a natural treasure that is a must-see on most visitors' lists. Marvel Cave is so vast, hot air balloons have actually inflated and launched inside its main cavern.

History of Branson

There are no records and only sparse evidence of the first human occupation of the area that surrounds Branson. Scholars theorize that the ancestors of the Osage Indians appeared in central Missouri sometime in the 14th century. These people were nomads, following game around the region east of the Mississippi between the Missouri and Arkansas rivers. The tribe lived this way for centuries, dominating other tribes who shared their homelands and aggressively attacking any others whom invaded their territory.

When the first Anglo men began to arrive in the region in the early 1700s, the Osage were at war with tribes from the southern woodlands as well as many of the plains Indians.

After the Spain claimed the region, Spanish and French traders plied their goods with the Osage for fur, but the warring traditions of the Osage disconcerted the Spanish and contributed to the crowns decision to transfer the Louisiana Territory back to France. One month later, it was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The following decades were tragic for the Osage people as the United States government made and broke treaties and forced the Osage into submission. This signaled the end of Indian occupation and opened the door to homesteaders.

Moving west from Kentucky and Tennessee, English, Irish and Scottish farmers carved an existence and created a unique culture in the Ozark Mountains. Proud heritage and individuality came with these people, and they thrived on the isolation that the deep woods provided, becoming fiercely independent and suspicious of outsiders. This isolation served to preserve their culture well into the 20th century.

Existence was tough, with limited soil for farming along the river valleys and steep, heavily forested slopes that made raising livestock a challenge. But it was timber that would prove to be the first practical economic stabilizer.

To satisfy the railroads insatiable hunger for cross ties, farmers became loggers and sawyers, and once-forested tracts of land were clear cut. As more and more farmland became available, strawberries and tobacco became cash crops that contributed to the areas cash flow. In 1837, the Missouri State Legislature created Taney County with the town of Forsyth named as the county seat. For the next twenty years, the area grew as lumber, ranching and farming drove the economy. But this would all end in 1861, when civil war literally tore the area apart. Taney County lied on the border between the Confederacy and the Union, and the land changed hands many times during the course of the war. Battles left innocent citizens dying and wounded, their homes broken and burned, and the areas infrastructure devastated. Once the war was over, the few who remained tried to rebuild their lives, farms and businesses, but it would be nearly a half a century before the gashes left by the war scarred over.

One ill side effect of the war were the renegades and outlaws who used the turmoil of conflict and the ruggedness of the Ozarks as an opportunity to practice their violent way of life. The regions most feared outlaw during the war was Alf Bolin and his gang of outlaws who ambushed stages and caravans along the roads leading north out of Taney County. Legends of gold bullion hidden in the hills around Branson entice treasure hunters to the area today. This lawlessness continued in the region, giving birth to the organization of a band of vigilantes. Thirteen men formed the group that would become known as the Bald Knobbers, after their meeting place atop Snaps Bald. They dispensed their own brand of justice and within just a few months, the groups numbers swelled to more than a thousand. The governor of Missouri was forced to step in to stop them.

The population of the region continued to grow. A demand for electricity in the towns and villages, coupled with a desperate need to control the devastating floods that ravaged the White River Valley, hatched an ambitious plan. As early as 1907, government officials and engineers began masterminding the construction of a dam on the White River, up river from Branson. But the first dam would come four years later, 12 miles downstream, near the county seat of Forsyth. The water that backed up behind Powersite Dam created Lake Tanycomo, the first major lake in Missouri, and began the alteration of the landscape and way of life of Branson. World War II delayed construction of the next dam until 1947. When completed, Bull Shoals dam backed up the waters of the river 75 miles to the base of Powersite Dam.

However, flooding continued until 1958 when Table Rock Dam was built above the warm waters of Lake Tanycomo, creating a 50,000-surface-acre water wonderland just south of Branson. The new lake changed many things. Cold water from the bottom of Table Rock created a quality trout fishery in adjacent Tanycomo. But the warm waters of Table Rock heated things up in Branson, and visitors began to arrive in droves.

Entrepreneurs began to take advantage of this influx of tourists. A limestone cave northwest of Branson was transformed into an attraction that evolved into Silver Dollar City, one of the nations most popular theme parks. A novel by Harold Bell Wright that had drawn attention to the area since 1907, became the setting for the Shepherd of the Hills outdoor drama. An amphitheater was built in a rolling pasture and hundreds of thousands of theatergoers relive the telling of the story of love, betrayal and forgiveness every year.

The roots of the driving force of modern-day Bransons economy are sunk deep in the hills and the culture of the mountains. Ozark Mountain jug bands were always locally popular and two groups, the Baldknobbers and the Presleys performed when and where they could, and finally both bands were able to build theaters along Highway 76 in the late 1960s. Their popularity was instantaneous and they played to sold-out crowds regularly. This drew the attention of nationally known entertainers who moved to Branson to take advantage of the throngs of tourists hungry for entertainment. Today, no less than 40 theaters line the streets of this entertainment Mecca.

The Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 45 48 60 71 78 86 91 90 82 72 60 48
Avg. Low 18 22 31 41 50 58 64 61 54 42 34 24
Mean 32 36 46 56 64 74 78 76 68 58 47 36
Avg. Precip. 1.9 in 2.4 in 3.9 in 3.9 in 4.5 in 4.3 in 3.4 in 3.4 in 3.9 in 3.3 in 3.9 in 3.3 in


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