There is a new attraction in Branson, and you do not have to pay an admission fee to enjoy it!! It is the beautifully-designed visitor center at Table Rock Dam that was just opened this spring.
The visitor center is adjacent to a well-maintained shore line along Tablerock Lake that is very inviting for swimming, short strolls, or longer hikes----for those who would like to follow the paths to their connection point with trails throughout the area of Tablerock State Park.
Just like the former center, the name is "Dewey Short Visitor Center", with the old visitor center being converted into offices. In 2010, the US Army Corps of Engineers received federal funding to build a new Class A visitor center at Table Rock Lake. A partnership was established with Ozarks Rivers Heritage Foundation to operate the new Dewey Short Regional Visitor Center.
This is also the location where one can make arrangements to tour the dam and powerhouse, and this former San Francisco Cable Car is the vehicle that will deliver you to the dam entrance. You can find out the details of touring the dam at www.tablerockdamtours.com
Cantilevered steel beams extend out of the top floor of the visitor center to give spectators a birds eye view of the dam and Chateau on the Lake property on the north end of the dam.
That upper deck also gave a great view of the underwater rock ledge that is along the shoreline in front of the visitor center. That ledge in indelibly printed in my mind, because back in the seventies, it was the location of a night dive that I took to meet the requirements of scuba certification. Although scuba diving was permissible at that location back in those days, the site is now off-limits to scuba. I am thankful I was able to scuba dive there before the rules changed!
When one is on the balcony of the visitor center, there is a great view of the map of Tablerock Lake that has been artistically designed into the concrete floor.
There is a classroom/conference center adjacent to the exhibit space, where lots of educational activities take place. Many of these activities are planned to be therapy for "nature deficit disorder", which is so prevalent in the younger generation these days. I saw announcements for classes about "how to fish", how to recognize birds and plants of the region, and how to be a good steward of the environment.
This exhibit let people try cranking the handlebars as fast and as long as they were able, to see how much energy their work would create.
In addition to the exhibits, there are areas in the center where one can just relax in a comfortable chair and enjoy the view!
This very familiar bird was carefully (and legally!) preserved by a taxidermist, and "flew" above the gift shop, along with a golden eage of the same size. All purchases at the gift shop (which has dozens of wonderful gifts representative of nature and the Ozarks, in particular) help provide support for the foundation. You can find out about the Ozark-made gift items available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
This was an eye-catching, and ear-catching, exhibit to me, because I have had the experience of going through a flood with my family, back in the sixties. There was a replay of a real television news story from the last century, telling about a flood that devastated the town of Hollister, Missouri, before the dam was built.
I liked the simplicity of this exhibit, because it helped me see the relationship of the location of the turbines deep inside the dam. The downward flow of the water make the "wheels" of the turbine spin, with the ultimate result being electricity to run this computer I am using at this very moment!
Another thing I like about this building is that it is LEED certified, in its design and construction. To be LEED certified, a building must meet strict criteria in the areas of energy and water conservation, recycling, indoor air quality, and sustainable building materials. For example, in Arkansas, the recently built world headquarters of Heifer, International, is LEED certified, as well as the Clinton Presidential Library.
On the bottom floor of the center, a life-side diorama of an Ozarks plateau has been recreated, complete with appropriate animal species represented through taxidermy.
Although there is not an actual big aquarium, a space has been designed to show fish of the Ozark lakes and rivers. This is one critter I have never encountered in my years of swimming and scuba diving in the Ozarks, and it is probably just as well! I would probably be scared to see it face to face, or should I say "snout to snout"?!
I have seen plenty of these gar on the lake, and I have learned to have a healthy respect for their teeth!
The exhibits are designed to be "hands on", with the hope of teaching visitors, especially youngsters, about where their electrical power comes from. Likewise, I am learning each day I live, the source of the power that enables me to endure in this world. It is described in Ephesians 3:16 --- "I pray that out of his glorious riches, he may strengthen you with POWER through his Spirit, in your inner being..." That is the kind of power that I want to have so that I can continue to explore God's beautiful creation with "miles of smiles"! ( To plan your trip to see this new attraction, go to www.tablerockcampgrounds.com or www.explorebranson.com )Tricia