Bass Pro Shops is an icon in southwest Missouri. Johnny Morris has created some amazing attractions there and across the country. Of the many I have visited, Dogwood Canyon, located just south of Branson, MO, stands out. I visited the park in May of 2019, and recently had the privilege of participating in a private tour of the park with a group from the Conservation Federation of Missouri and was blown away again. We literally had the park to ourselves.
Dogwood Canyon is a 10,000 acre nature preserve that shows off the true, pristine character of the Ozarks. According to the park’s website, “the rugged landscape has been left untouched and, with just a little imagination, you can travel back to a time when European settlers first entered the area or, even further, to explore the mark that Native Americans left on these Missouri hills and hollows.”
That description could not be more accurate.
The Nature and Conservation Center in the front of the park houses a fully functioning mill, with regular demonstrations throughout the day. Visitors are left in awe at the historical Native-American artifacts located in the museum as well. Upon exiting the Center into the park, a one-of-a-kind treehouse comes into view. It turns out the treehouse was built by Pete Nelson and his team from Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet.
The rest of the park centers around the beautiful waters of Dogwood Creek. A nicely paved trail runs the length of the park, allowing easy access for all physical abilities. Biking and segway tours are available to the park’s visitors, but many choose to hike, taking in all the sights and sounds. For those who want to explore even further, there are unpaved trails up into the mountains of the park as well.
During our private tour, we were given the chance to fish in the fly only area with the assistance of the some of the park’s guides. Self-guided fishing is available, but if you want to learn fly fishing and catch large fish, I recommend choosing the guided fishing option. Our group caught numerous rainbow trout in the 2-4 pound range in just under an hour, all on fly rods.
The area we fished was located just below the “Glory Hole”, a small pool that is off limits to fishing. During my first visit, I witnessed what I thought were close to 20-pound rainbow trout. The guides confirmed my observations to be true. “There are several,” they said. Interestingly, only a few have ever been allowed to fish the Glory Hole. I’m told Johnny Morris and Jack Nicklaus are among them.
Another portion of the park I found extremely unique was the wildlife tram tours. These tours are available on a daily basis and offer visitors a 2-hour, narrated trip through the park, culminating in the wildlife viewing area. Upon crossing the border into Arkansas, whitetail deer, Texas longhorns, elk, and American Bison are there to greet each tram as it passes by. Getting up close and personal during our trip was not a problem.
Our group experienced a huge portion of the park, but there is still so much more it has to offer than what we had time for. Horseback riding, private jeep tours, and eagle watching tours are all available. Multiple venues, including a breathtaking chapel, offer the chance for those interested to host their wedding and receptions at the park. The architecture of the bridges and buildings along the way will leave you staring in wonder.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Dogwood Canyon is a must-visit travel destination. And if you or someone you know is just becoming interested in the outdoors, Dogwood Canyon is the perfect place to start. It is a true Missouri wonder.
To learn more about the adventures you can have at Dogwood Canyon, be sure to visit their website!