Thanks to a booming theatre scene, a vibrant nightlife, endless outdoor attractions, and lakeside beauty, Branson has become a destination for those seeking to explore the Ozarks. Today, the Branson Chamber of Commerce Visitors Information Center estimates nearly 50,000 visitors flock to Branson each day. That’s a serious boom for a city with a year-round population around 10,500 (U.S Census). But for most visitors, the history of Branson, Missouri, is largely unknown.
The History of Branson, Missouri
To get a glimpse of what first put Branson on the map, head to one of the city’s main attractions: Silver Dollar City. Branson’s original attraction is located underneath the theme park’s towering roller coasters. Marvel Cave hooked the imagination and amazement of geologists and explorers in the 1860s. A few decades later, word of the underground wonder had spread. Thrill-seekers from across the continent headed to Branson to see the majestic cavern. By the mid 1890s, mining expert William Henry Lynch had purchased the cave and opened it for public tours. Today, the cave still inspires and amazes guests as they wander through its chambers.
With a tourist attraction already on the books, word of the Ozarks’ scenic beauty was beginning to spread, becoming a key part of the history of Branson, Missouri. By 1907, author Harold Bell Wright’s popular novel “The Shepherd of the Hills” brought the rolling hillsides to life. He captured the beauty of the area, the wonder of the caves he’d seen, and the stoic people who called the Ozarks home. The book became one of Wright’s best-selling novels. It was even turned into several films, including one starring John Wayne. The wild beauty of the Ozarks was arousing curiosity across the country, but it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the area’s true wealth – its many lakes and rivers – started attracting outdoor enthusiasts.
The Ozark Waterways
In 1913, the Ozark Beach Dam was completed, and the result was the formation of Lake Taneycomo. The newly formed lake quickly became a hotspot for anglers, swimmers, and hunters. The reservoir was originally a warm water lake, but that changed when Table Rock Dam was completed. As the cold waters of Table Rock Lake flowed into Lake Taneycomo, the reservoir transformed into a cold water lake almost overnight. The frigid temperatures brought a halt to swimming, but the chill made Lake Taneycomo one of the country’s premier destinations for trout fishing. The lake is now home to the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery.
The Rise of Branson Theatres
Branson’s theatre scene is arguably its most notable attraction today, but the city didn’t get its first musical theatre until 1967. The Presley family built the first theatre along Hwy. 76 when they completed the Ozark Jubilee. The Baldknobbers followed suit not long after and built a theatre nearby in 1969.
Back then, Branson’s theatre scene was still largely unknown, but Silver Dollar City was wildly popular. By 1963, it was the top tourist attraction in Missouri. In 1967, the theme park served as a backdrop to the popular TV series “Beverly Hillbillies.” Episodes showed actual visitors wandering through Silver Dollar City, and scenes were shot in the Ozark Mountains. The national exposure turned the spotlight on Branson, and soon the budding theatre scene was attracting serious celebrities.
Branson Receives National Attention
Stars including Barbara Fairchild, The Lennon Sisters, The Osmonds, Wynonna Judd, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Mathis, and Neal McCoy have all taken the stage in Branson. Other big names, including Andy Williams Joe Stafford, Yakov Smirnoff, and Shoji Tabuchi, set up shop in the Ozarks and ensured the history of Branson, Missouri, was a colorful one. The local theatre scene was such a draw that 60 Minutes declared Branson the “live music capital of the entire universe” in 1991, and the title has stuck ever since (source).
Still Making History
More than a century since Branson first made it onto the map, the small Ozarks hamlet is still attracting throngs of visitors. Some are drawn in by the area’s natural beauty. Others come for the shows and live entertainment. Families from across the country arrive by the carload to enjoy the thrills of Silver Dollar City. The theme park made history once again when it unveiled its newest wooden roller coaster, Outlaw Run. It’s the first and only wood coaster to boast a double-barrel roll and three upside down twists.
But Silver Dollar City isn’t the only Branson attraction enjoying serious national buzz. The Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament, hosted at Top of the Rock, has brought dozens of golfing legends and celebrities to this scenic golf course and restaurant. Even Kid Rock hit the fairway!
As years pass and new attractions open, the history of Branson, Missouri, continues to evolve. But the majestic and unbridled beauty of the Ozarks remains at the heart of what makes this corner of the state so alluring 100 years after it first captured the attention of the country.
Branson is still full of excitement and adventure! Whether you’re planning a family vacation or heading out on a business retreat, Branson Vacation Rentals offers luxurious lodging options guaranteed to make you feel right at home. With more than 60 lodging options, Branson Vacation Rentals would love to make your stay as comfortable and memorable as possible. If you have any questions or would like more information on how we can help set you up in style, call 417-832-9991 or leave us a message. We would love to make your vacation one you’ll never forget!