Lorelei has loved writing since she was a child and enjoys writing from personal knowledge and experience.
In the spring of 2020, we sold our house in Mesa, Arizona and headed east to Missouri. After 16 years in the desert, we were ready for a change and we really missed having changing seasons and lots of green scenery. Although we wanted this near our new home, we didn’t want to go back to harsh winters and searing summer temperatures. We had previously lived in northern and middle Missouri but never in the southern part of the state. Our main criteria for our search included being near water, having a bit of land, and we wanted to feast our eyes on after years of looking at a fence.
We finally settled on an area just outside Branson, Missouri. We found a house on almost an acre of land, that had a nice view, and was up a large hill. We were officially living in the mountains of the Ozarks. Life here is such a switch from where we were and now after almost a year, I can say that it was the best move we have ever made. My husband has often stated, “Why would you want to live anywhere else?” It’s something we hear from many people who live in the region. The Missouri Ozarks extend south from St. Louis to the Arkansas River with the mountains occupying 50,000 square miles. 33,000 of which are in Missouri. It also extends into four states. Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. So, what makes the Ozarks so great? Let me tell you.
First, you should understand that the Ozark Mountains (AKA Ozark Plateau) are not like the towering Rocky Mountains. They are more like high rolling hills, but if you view them from a higher point you understand why they are called mountains. There are high peaks and low valleys that go on and on and the weather can be slightly different from top to bottom.
We live on what would be called a high hill, but while it can be pouring rain at the bottom of the hill, we can be high and dry up the hill and vice versa. The mountains are heavily covered in forests which also makes it difficult to see them as mountains. Kind of the can’t see the mountain for the trees thing. According to Britannica, “The highest point in Missouri is Taum Sauk Mountain (1,772 feet [540 m]), west of Ironton, in the St. Francois Mountains.” The land is rich in lead and zinc and the soil is conducive to growing many fruits such as strawberries. The Ozarks are well known for their natural beauty. With natural waterfalls after a rain, the lakes, and the animals, there is so much to see that is difficult to take it all in. Here are just some of what the Ozarks are known for.
Lakes here are often connected by rivers and creeks that run for miles across the landscape and create long waterways. Some are created from overflow systems using dams and these “chains” or water systems offer a more widespread opportunity to enjoy them.
- Lake of the Ozarks which is located about 2 hours from Springfield is one of the most popular lakes for recreation. It’s a reservoir lake created by the Osage River. It has 1,100 miles of shoreline with public beaches and lots of space for water sports and fishing.
- Lake Taneycomo is in Branson. It is part of a 3-lake system created by dams and is known for its clear cold waters. It is one of the best rainbow and brown trout fishing lakes in the world. The lake was created in 1913 when they captured the White River into a dam system. Shore fishing is limited to public lands and most of the lakeshore is privately owned.
- Table Rock Lake is another part of the 3-part lake system and has more than 800 miles of shoreline. It is one of Branson’s top destination lakes. There are many resorts on and near the lake and the lake offers an opportunity to camp, water ski, hike, sightsee, sail, or fish. You can also rent items like boats and jet skis to enjoy various water sports.
- Bull Shoals Lake is also part of the 3-lake dam system. It has hundreds of miles of coves and lake arms. It offers boating, fishing, water sports, swimming, and with adjacent parks there are many opportunities to enjoy the area.
One of the things I most enjoy here is the wildlife. It is a bird lover’s paradise! What I see just sitting in my front yard alone is awesome! I have seen a wide variety of birds. Bluebirds, robins, hummingbirds, various woodpeckers (including the Pileated), cardinals, blue jays, orioles, roadrunners, various water birds, and there are so many more I am not even mentioning. There are also deer, bear, armadillo, and other wonderful animals to see.
If you have not been to Branson you have been missing out. Branson is a travel destination that offers family entertainment, golf courses, shopping, and great restaurants. Come for the day, a weekend, or longer. There is also an abundance of hotels, weekend rental homes, and cabins to choose from, which in the slow seasons are quite reasonable. Here’s just a sampling of things to do.
- Silver Dollar City is a theme park that offers a lot! There is shopping, restaurants, and park treats, demonstrating craftsmen, rides, live shows, some of the best roller coasters, and train rides. Every Autumn they also have a festival with many sale booths and events.
- Branson Landing is a great shopping experience with Bass Pro Shop and other stores. It also offers around 20 wonderful restaurants including Paula Deans and Guy Fieri’s. Bars and patio dining are available. There is even a zip line that sails you over the water. Fountains, hotels, a whiskey tasting room, are just some of the area fun and it’s located across from the Branson Train.
- Tanger Outlet Mall is located on the Branson strip and gives you the best shopping brands at great prices. Don’t miss getting the homemade fudge there either, it’s the best!
- Titanic Branson is a visit to the past. It celebrates the ship, crew, and passengers in a very interesting way that gets the visitors more involved in the experience.
- The Track Family Fun Parks offer a variety of fun things to do like go-carting, mini-golf, a Ferris wheel, and other fun rides and games.
- Shepherd of the Hills is another great theme park that offers live shows, a historic farm, kids' playland, mini-golf, a train, a tower to view the beautiful surrounding scenery, sweets and treats, zip-lining, a ropes course, restaurants, and more.
There are also many entertaining shows to choose from. The remarkable thing about the shows here is that they are all family-friendly so anyone can come and enjoy them. There are also many bands and singers who come to Branson for special shows. Here is a list of some of the shows in the area.
There are so many opportunities to enjoy nature. Lake of the Ozarks State Park offers day-use areas, campgrounds, lodging, boat ramps, hiking trails, swimming, fishing, and more. Ha Ha Tonka State Park features stone ruins of a 20th-century castle. Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area is also a nice trip. It has over 2700 acres of hunting, bird watching, camping, trails, and a hunting range. There are many other state, county, and city parks to visit. It’s worth considering if you love to see nature at its best.
While you are in the area you must visit one of the many caves. I have claustrophobia and was still able to tour one of our nearby caves because it was so large. I plan on going to another large cave in the future. Fantastic Caverns is supposed to be so big that you can drive through it, so that’s my next adventure. The caves usually have interesting stories to go along with them. Civil War soldiers used some and others have been attractions since they were first discovered. There is even one known for holding weddings.
If you enjoy golfing, why wouldn’t you want to play it in one of the most beautiful places around? You will appreciate the abundance of greenery, gleaming waters, and natural bluffs. Some of the area courses were designed by pro golfers like Arnold Palmer and Bruce Devlen. The Lodge at Four Seasons is in the top five of golf courses. Branson attracts attention because it offers golfing experiences for all age levels in beautiful settings and with photo-worthy views.
Small Towns and Views
There are many small towns throughout the Ozarks. These areas have hidden treasures. Whether it’s home town cafes, historic attractions, inexpensive hotel/motels, and unique shopping experiences. The people are friendly and look forward to welcoming new people to their shops and communities.
If you are looking for spectacular views then the Ozarks are here to please. Some of the most beautiful sunsets are seen setting over the channels, lakes, and streams that run through the hills. There are also many overlooks that make it especially easy to take in those views and it is a photographer’s dream. When we first moved to the area in the spring we were awed by not only the views from these vistas but the animals and birds we saw. Creatures like woodchucks, bald eagles, fox, and other wildlife. We often spent a day just taking drives through the winding roads and taking in the forested areas.
Springfield has all the amenities of the city but also some wonderful attractions. I’ve already mentioned Fantastic Caverns, but here are a few attractions that also can be enjoyed.
- Bass Pro Shop is the original Bass Pro shop. It is an epic outdoor-themed shopping experience. It not only has every outdoor item you could think of, but also offers fish and other water and land live wildlife displays. There are also eateries and museums within its doors.
- Wonders of Wildlife boasts being the “largest immersive wildlife attraction in the world”. It has wildlife exhibits, an aquarium, and teaches conservation. They have much more to offer as well. A great family outing!
- Dickerson Park Zoo has animals from around the world. Offering animal encounters and education.
- Pythian Castle was built in 1913 by the Knights of Pythias and then the U.S. Military where they held war prisoners. Now it offers historical tours, escape rooms, murder mysteries, and more.
- Route 66 Car Museum is a car lover’s dream, that is if you love classic and sports cars. Cars from the brass era, classics, sports, and celebrity cars.
There are so many more things to do and see in Springfield I could not list them all. But consider Mizumoto Japanese Garden, Ozark Park Trail, the botanical gardens, History Museum on the Square, Springfield Art Museum, and the Railroad Historical Museum. Oh yes, and what kind of trip would it be without seeing the World’s Largest Fork?
If you love nature, adventure, shopping, and fun coming to the Ozarks is a no-brainer. I am so happy to now be a part of such a wonderful region and community.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Lorelei Nettles
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 30, 2020:
The area that you've described sounds like a wonderful place to explore. Thank you for sharing the information and the photos. I can understand why you enjoy living in the area!