Branson Missouri and Table Rock Lake

 



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WELCOME TO MY SITE AND THANK YOU FOR VISITING

I believe you will find more information here about visiting or moving to Branson Missouri than with any other resource.  We have worked hard to convey our personal insights on the area.  We have also provided many descriptive links to a broad range of topics related to the area.  Additionally, we update the site and blog frequently. A good “index” to the topics is below.

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DON AND THE DOGS

My wife and I, along with our four rescue animals, moved to the area about five years ago.  We retired here, actually in Branson West, from the busy Houston, Texas metro area.  Boy what a change !  My purpose here is to relate our experiences, impressions and knowledge of this wonderful place in that it might be helpful to folks either visiting or moving here.  We have learned a lot over our time here, this post will be a work in progress to hopefully convey some useful information.  Oh and I may also post other stuff that pops into my head on a random basis (see Don’s Blog on Menu).

TOPICS BELOW INCLUDE:

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THE BEGINNING
I had lived in the busy Houston area for about 47 years.  Large part of that time working as an engineer (University of Oklahoma grad) at the Johnson Space Center in the Clear Lake area.  Started my own business in commercial real estate in 1988.
Met and married my wonderful wife, Trish, in 1988.  Retired in 2003.
Can you believe I am married to this sweetheart:
We started thinking about retiring to a place a little less busy than Houston.  Trish grew up in the Ozarks and Springfield Missouri area and still has family in the Springfield area, namely her mother and three sisters, an aunt, etc.  Being a native Texan the idea of re-locating to Missouri seemed foreign and unfaithful.  But being the loving husband that I am, and with a little arm twisting, we decided to check out the Table Rock Lake area surrounding Branson and Branson West.
What the heck are the “Ozarks”, Wikipedia definition:
Superb article on life in the Ozarks from a historical perspective by Margaret Hoten:

 

I got hooked almost immediately on the Branson area and the natural beauty of the Lake with its incredible surrounding terrain, natural unspoiled wooded areas, and clear, clean water.

 
Showboat Branson Belle by Chateau on the Lake

WHY THE BRANSON AREA:

The city of Branson proper lies about 40 miles south of Springfield, Missouri on U.S. 65, a divided four lane highway.  The City boasts a population of over 10,000 full-time residents with a reported 8 to 9 million annual visitors that come for the musical shows, fishing, golfing, boating, hiking, camping, etc.  The visitors come from all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  In addition, a large number of folks choose to  retire in the area, mostly attracted to:  lake style living, golfing,  etc., and a very affordable housing market.

Great video on Branson, out of date only in that the current air carrier at the Branson airport in now Via Airlines (see “Air Travel” below):

Fun Things to do in Branson

Pictorial Overview of Branson Attractions

We chose to live in Branson West which is essentially on the other side of Table Rock Lake to the West.  Branson West population was reported to be 402 as of the last census (this is what the city limit signs say and they have not bumped it up since Trish and I moved here).

Many folks in the Branson West area, including us, actually live in un-incorporated rural areas in and around the Lake.  Most of this is very hilly and winding and is heavily wooded.   We can get into the heart of Branson in about 30 minutes for dining, shopping or attending Broadway caliber live entertainment.  But now we have a real dependence on online shopping to save the drive time.  Amazing how quick stuff can get to our front door, mostly without shipping charges.  We are on a first name basis with our FedEx and UPS drivers.  We use the heck out of Amazon and particularly Amazon Prime.

Bottom line: this area has a ton to offer for folks of all ages, retirees or visitors.  Check out the following sites for much more information.

 

SEARCHING FOR A HOME:

For folks moving to the area the process of searching for a home can be daunting. The simple reason is that there are so many options to consider: a residential subdivision in Branson or Branson West, lake front property around Table Rock Lake or Taneycomo (the body of very cold water below the Dam, great trout fishing), rural acreage,  farm or ranch land, etc.  The counties that include all of this are Stone and Taney.

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Due to the fact that most of the area, excepting the city of Branson, is very heavily wooded and mountainous (folks from Colorado would consider it just “hilly), it can be like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.  Add to this that virtually all of the roads are winding and hilly.  You don’t get very far just jumping in your car and driving around.  Many of the desirable properties are virtually hidden off of the main arteries.

 

We have no shortage of experienced real estate agents in the area that can really be a big help.  Most have good websites for searching and you can learn a lot by spending time on the web prior to exploring the area.  For my wife and I we knew we wanted to be on Table Rock Lake, but which side, north or south, etc. ? In our case how far to Trish’s family in the Springfield area ? (close but not too close).

Many lake proximity homes are built on one side or the other of county roads that run along the ridge top peninsulas created when the lake was formed.  Because the roads sit on top of the ridges, many properties are built on very steep lots.  But generally these homes can have spectacular views of the Lake.

We decided that we needed to be on the north side of the Lake that would make the drive into Springfield about 45 minutes.  We also were attracted to Branson West, which has a decidedly small town feel.  Branson West has maybe three or four stop lights and is essentially located at the intersection of Business 13 and Hwy 76.  The town has a lot of basic shopping and eating choices including: Walmart, Walgreens, Country Mart, McDonalds, Hardees, Sonic, Taco Bell, two Mexican food restaurants, two Oriental restaurants, O’Reillys, etc.

Coming from the Houston area, with its incredible traffic these days, it is really nice not to deal with a lot of traffic.  The  exception to this is the entertainment “strip” on 76 in Branson.  During high season this can get to be bumper to bumper but the City has created good bypasses to get you to your show or restaurant.

We finally opted for a three acre tract overlooking the Lake on Hwy DD.  We are on the west side looking across to the Corps dam and Chateau on the Lake.  Our property is relatively flat and about 300 feet above the Lake level and the Lake is another 300 feet above mean sea level.  First place we have ever lived where we do not need flood insurance.

Our house was built about 40 years ago and was frozen in the seventies as far as flooring, wall covering, light fixtures, appliances and so on.  We have since done major remodeling to the house (including relocating the interior stair well, building a new master bath,  new kitchen, new decks, etc.)

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                View from our back deck
My favorite local agent who really knows the area:

Jay Pilgrim’s Link

Great real estate search site

DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE AREA:

If you come from almost any large U.S. city, you are accustomed to a pretty diverse and large population.  Not so in the Branson area.  In both Stone and Taney counties (that includes Branson West and Branson, respectively) the white population is around 97 percent plus.  Combined black, asian and hispanic races make up less than 3 percent of the population.  Not saying this is bad or good, just the facts.

Stone County Demographics

PROPERTY TAXES AND VALUATIONS:

In a nutshell, cheap.  Branson area property taxes seem like the best deal ever when you come from a fairly large city.  Valuations are really on the low side (and seem to have little correlation to market value). On a comparable property value basis our property taxes are about 20 to 30 percent of what they were in the Houston area.  Missouri does have both a personal property tax and a State income tax.  Even with these we are way ahead on total taxation.

Missouri Property Tax Calculator

POLITICAL CLIMATE:

Folks in this area could, by generally over stating, be described as; god fearing, bible thumping, gun-toting and pretty conservative.  Also very big on family values.  Barack Obama and/or Hillary Clinton would not have placed this area high on their list of places to campaign.  In the most recent presidential election the local counties went overwhelming Republican.  Above comments mostly apply to people who are native to the area and/or have lived here a long time.  A significant portion of the population are those folks that have chosen to retire here and can be from anywhere, with diverse backgrounds, education levels, business experience, etc.

BRANSON LOVES VETERANS:

You would be hard put to find a place anywhere that does more to appreciate and honor veterans.  The first week in November typically is dedicated to veterans with special breaks on shows, accommodations and restaurants.  Many special events are planned and always feature a trip to the Veterans Memorial Museum.

Aside from dedicating a week to vets, everyday in Branson honors these wonderful people.  Virtually every show will feature a standing tribute to the vets in attendance.  The following link describes all that the city does to recognize and accommodate veterans.

Branson Thank You to Veterans

Best Reasons for Veterans to Visit Branson

Fantastic Site for All Things for Veterans

WEATHER:

Moving here from the Gulf coast area, and being a “senior citizen” (aka old fart), my initial concern was that I would probably freeze to death in the first winter.  Obviously I did not.

One thing I really like about the weather here is that there are four distinct seasons.  In the Houston area there are essentially two; hot humid/rainy and semi-cold and rainy.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love Houston and my friends there.  Spent a large portion of my life there during my productive and procreative years.

The Ozarks (strict definition of which is illusive) can get cold in the winter and hot in the summer.  A strange thing in the Branson area is that Table Rock Lake keeps us about five degrees warmer than Springfield in the winter and about five degrees cooler in the summer.  The area has had big time snow and ice storms, but we haven’t really seen that so far.  Don’t have to worry about hurricanes here but the tornado threat in the spring time is nothing to fool around with.  Fortunately we can “go to the mattress’s ” in our lower level when there are warnings (lots of fun rounding up the livestock).  Our house construction, like many here, has a so-called “walkout” basement (front elevation is one level, rear elevation basically two-story).

I marvel at how fast the foliage can change in the wooded areas.  First of all the wooded areas are really, really dense and trees grow to great heights in pretty rocky soil.  In the fall the leaves all fall in about two weeks, depending on the wind.  We have about 150 trees on our property and in the fall about ten gazillion leaves need to be mulched, burned or blown off down the hill.  Real estate agents will talk about a property having winter views and summer views.  When the trees are bare our view of the Lake opens up dramatically.

In the spring the leaves all come back almost over night which to me seems remarkable in view of the density of the woods.

Overview of Branson Weather

WILDLIFE:

When we first moved in to our house our nearest neighbor related seeing an eagle snatch a cat from a backyard close by.  Having four indoor pets this got our attention.  Turns out this not a particular concern in that we watch both the cats and dogs pretty close and the eagles would rather sit on tree branches at the Lake’s edge and fish.  Mostly very careful at night.  Consider coyotes to be more of a potential threat when they are breeding and hungry.

Present almost in any wooded area in the Ozarks are: black bears, coyotes, foxes, millions of squirrels, snakes (yuk), eagles, hawks, many species of birds including the iconic red cardinal, rabbits, etc.  Deer, especially, are very numerous and are a cause to be very careful driving the county roads at night.  Not unusual to have a small herd in the yard that really like eating Trish’s flowers and plants.  Dogs live to chase them away during the day or early evening.

Many of the black bears in the area have been tagged and you can actually track them on the following website.

Track the Bears

Should I be eaten by a bear, postings to my site will probably cease.

Overview of all “critters” in the Ozarks

SHOWS AND ATTRACTIONS IN BRANSON:

This is a pretty big topic and I am not going to try to cover all of the many shows, restaurants, attractions, rides, museums, etc.  I will simply give my overall view of the quality and caliber of the entertainment.

One testament to the attraction of Branson can be seen in the parking lots of the theaters and restaurants almost year round.  You will see license plates from almost every state in the Union, not to mention the numerous tour buses that come filled with hundreds of folks giddy with excitement (possible slight exaggeration, hard to detect giddiness in folks with blue hair).

The shows typically feature great productions with a strong bias towards country and/or bluegrass music.  But in general the talent is phenomenal with the musicians, singers, illusionist and comics.  Shows are very family friendly with virtually no off-color content.  For years the bigger theaters were owned by personalities like Andy Williams, Mickey Gilley, etc.  One of my favorites is the Beatles show, the  guys sound more like the Beatles that the Beatles.

They say the Branson theaters have more theater seats than Broadway.  Have not really counted at either place but we have seen our share of Broadway shows and the Branson shows are on par with both Broadway and Vegas.  Besides, where else can you go to see Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger and his dog Bullet stuffed and standing in the lobby of the RFD theater ?  Don’t know what they did with Roy and Dale.

History of Show Business in Branson

Follow this link for complete schedules for all current Branson shows:

Branson Shows Schedule

AIR TRAVEL:

Branson has one of the coolest airport terminals around.  The terminal building is very unique and friendly (think log construction, wildlife, Bass Pro like).  It is located about five miles south of Branson just off of US 65.  If you hate busy terminals with long lines and time-consuming security clearance, you would love this airport.  You feel very safe flying into, or out of, Branson.

Only one minor problem, not any major airlines use the terminal.  When we first moved to the area Southwest was flying regular, scheduled flights in and out of Branson.  For us this was a big deal in that we could fly non-stop back to Houston Hobby in about and hour and twenty minutes at a cost of less than $100 one-way.  This compares to a 12 to 14 hour drive to Houston to visit family and friends.

Within our first year here Southwest pulled out citing lack of traffic, etc.  Ironically the Houston route was the only money-maker for Southwest at that time.  The airport authority has struggled to attract another major but we now have service from a regional/charter carrier with flights several times a week, non-stop to Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Denver and Houston.  Hopefully they can sustain this over the whole year, not just during high season.

Of course there is a larger airport in Springfield that has major carriers (i.e. American, Delta and United).  This is a really nice airport facility with little heavy traffic in the terminal (never seen but a handful of folks there at any one time).  For us, not too useful, no direct flights to Houston without at least one stop, very expensive.

Our Great Airports in Branson and Springfield

CRIME AND SAFETY:

Being accustomed to the nightly news in a large metro area, you become almost immune to reports of shootings (can you say Chicago), drug busts, hijackings, robbery and so forth.  In the Branson area you would probably get your news from one of the fine affiliate tv stations in Springfield,  the Springfield News Leader, or any one of the local newspapers.   They all report any breaking crime related news but favor stories about elected officials getting cuffed, fishing records, sports and cars smashing into trees.  Thank goodness for an USA Today insert in the Springfield paper.

I have not done any research on crime statistics in the area versus large cities.  My observation is that crime in and around Branson is small potatoes.  We feel very safe in the area but we do pack heat, mostly because we want to fit in.  Don’t really want to shoot anyone.

I do feel that the leading cause of sudden death in the area is folks running off of the road and crashing into a tree, most times without benefit of a seat belt.  Victims are mostly either young, distracted drivers or older folks that simply lose control.  Most of the county roads are very unforgiving of diving into the woods.

There is one other phenomena that we have observed in the dead of winter.  Folks in the deep woods like to kill one another by various means.  This might be caused by extreme “cabin fever” but is more likely; family disputes and/or meth deals gone bad.

Having said the above the area is a really safe place to live, not to mention being an unlikely target of a North Korean missile attack.  Also if the Russians invade, don’t think they will start here.

FISHING IN THE AREA:

Let me state upfront that I am not a fisherman, although I love to eat fish, if someone else catches, cleans and cooks them.  But having lived here for the past five years I know that fishing is a big deal on Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo.

Fishermen come from all over the U.S. to fish this area.  Table Rock Lake is extremely clear and clean and species caught here include: Bass (large mouth and white), Walleye, Catfish and Crappie, etc.

The water in Lake Taneycomo is very cold as it exits the lower part of the dam that created Table Rock (formed by Corps in the 50’s by damming the White River).  This is where the good trout fishing takes place.

A couple of “starter links” below.  If you Google “fishing on Table Rock Lake” you will get a whole lot more informative sites, including maps, guide services, etc.

Seasonal Fishing Techniques

History of Fishing Museum

Branson Fishing Guides

In Springfield, Johnny Morris of Bass Pro fame, has announced the grand opening of his new “Wonders of Wildlife” in September of 2017.  For fishermen and hunters this should be their “Disney World”

Wonders Of Wildlife

BOATING:

I started sailing when I was about fourteen years old in and around Galveston Bay.  Have owned almost more boats than I can recount, both sail and power.  Consider myself to be a fairly competent blue water sailor with Trish and I having logged a lot of offshore miles in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.  Having said that what am I doing on an inland lake ?  The simple answer is that I don’t miss standing watch offshore for days on end and being cold, wet, hungry, deprived of sleep and otherwise pretty miserable in my foul weather gear (although many great memories of beautiful sailing with great crews and tranquil weather).

Table Rock Lake is fantastic.  Not particularly good for sailing because of fluky winds caused by surrounding terrain (most sailing in the area is on Stockton Lake, about 50 miles north of us, wide open, good winds, even has a yacht club and sailboat racing, something I do miss).  But Table Rock is wonderful for power boating including; water sports (i.e. tubing, jet skis, skiing, wake boarding etc.), fishing and just exploring the extensive lake.

Table Rock was formed when the Corps damned the White River at Branson in the early 1950’s.  It extends about 80 miles to the west of Branson and has close to 800 miles of shoreline.  Because the Corps still tightly controls development around the Lake, it retains a near natural state with incredibly clear and clean water.  They do this in part with a setback easement along the shoreline that prohibits building right on the water’s edge (a few older properties are “grandfathered” on this).  Also very tight controls on where new boat docks can be built.  We are just now seeing a lifting of a Corps imposed moratorium on new dock construction that has been in effect for several years and had the net effect of making existing dock slips hard to find and expensive (good  deal if you happen to already own one).  These controls by the Corps of Engineers makes Table Rock somewhat unique among all of the many lakes in Missouri.

Like most inland lakes Table Rock is generally flat water and it takes pretty strong winds to produce even slight waves and/or “whitecapping”.  Boats on the Lake will range from small fishing boats to very large cabin cruisers and houseboats (some of the houseboats are larger than most homes we have owned over the years).

There are a number of really nice public marinas with floating covered docks for larger boats that need to be in the water.  For example the Port of Kimberling Marina and Resort:

The typical private dock would featured anywhere from two to 14 plus individual slips typically measuring about 10 x 24 feet, most with  hydrohoist type lifts.  One note here, if you are used to boating anywhere in salt water you know that bottom fouling is persistent and requires both anti- fouling  paint and/or a lift or hoist.  In fresh water this is much less of a factor and many smaller boats (say 16 to 24 feet) can simply be left in the water year round.  Most smaller fishing boats are simply kept on trailers and launched on any one of the numerous public ramps around the Lake.

Aside from a complete range of mono-hull power boats (both inboard and outboard power), deck boats including pontoons and tritoons are very popular on the Lake.  These are great at accommodating a large group in comfort and with great stability.  We currently have a 24 foot tritoon, inboard/outdrive, that is great for our extended family outings (rated for 13 people).

For anyone, including us, that have come from warm Gulf or Atlantic coastal waters, you are used to a year round boating season.  Little different in this part of Missouri.  Particularly if you have a boat in the water with either inboard or inboard/outdrive power you must “winterize” your boat for freeze protection over the winter months (applies to boats that have direct cooling from lake water as opposed to closed circuit cooling).  This means your boating season typically ends late in October and starts late April or May.  Water temperature will range from around 85 to 90 in the summer to 42 to 47 degrees in the winter.  Of course the hard-core fishermen, having mostly outboard power, will fish year round, weather permitting.

Navigating Table Rock Lake

GOLFING :

Both Trish and I golf although there has not been a lot of time for it between remodeling the house, boating, etc.  I am averaging about two times a year which is just enough to reinforce my standing as a duffer first class.  Still really enjoy the game though. Trish keeps me stocked with new golf balls that she buys cheaply at the Thrift Store.  Many of these balls now reside on the bottom of some of the nicest area water hazards.

Second only to the fishermen that visit Branson are the golfers that come to enjoy one of the many superb and scenic courses, most of which have been designed by world class golf pros.  The courses are a mix of both public and private, but even a lot of the privates offer good rates for the public.

Branson Golf Courses

The now world famous Top of the Rock course

Folks that retire here seem to either favor the Lake life style or one of the many area golf course communities.  A Google search on “golf homes in Branson Area” will yield a plethora of developments for either single family homes or condos built on and around the local courses.

MEDICAL FACILITIES:

Having moved here from the Houston, Texas area, and having access to the world class Houston Medical Center, we were anxious to know what facilities were in the Branson area.  Turns out there are two very good options; CoxHealth and Mercy.

Both have major, highly ranked, hospitals in Springfield.  Both have clinics in Branson and Branson West, and both have lifeflight capability for transport to Springfield.  Trish and I both have our primary care doctors in a Branson West clinic, but referrals to specialist typically will take us to either Branson or Springfield.  So far our experience with the practicing doctors has been good.

Cox Medical Center in Branson

Mercy Hospital in Springfield

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