Big Cedar Lodge’s Dogwood Canyon
As huge fans of the scenic Ozarks, my family takes time away from everyday living and heads to Arkansas and Missouri at least once each year. One of the biggest draws is top-ranked Big Cedar Lodge’s sister property, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, which, straddling both states, is a unique spot that has been purposefully designed with nature in mind.
Situated 30 minutes southwest of Branson, Missouri, this 10,000-acre limestone canyon affords outdoor adventure for all. A splendid blend of Mother Nature’s magic and the tender loving care of human hands (namely Johnny Morris of Bass Pro and Big Cedar Lodge fame and his masterful influence), the preserve wows everyone.
Whether on foot or on a guided tour, the sites will blow your mind as you admire numerous waterfalls, blue-green natural pools, and crystal clear streams, abundantly filled with trout for eager anglers. Carefully maintained natural grounds display rugged rock formations, canopies of trees, deep dark caves and plentiful flora—all indigenous to the area. Wildlife is plentiful, too. Herds of Bison, American Elk, Texas Longhorn cattle and whitetail deer call Dogwood Canyon Nature Park home and roam free, making encounters with them frequent and personal. Park scientists track and facilitate the herds’ growth in an effort to revitalize and preserve the natural landscape as it was inhabited hundreds of years ago.
Ways to Soak In the Beauty
Upon arrival at the welcome center, you’ll park the car since no automobiles are permitted in the preserve. At this point, you’ll want to determine your preferred mode of transportation. General admission fees are $15-25 for 12 years and older, $10.50-17.50 for 3-11 year-olds, and those under 3 are free.
There are more than six-and-a-half miles of pristinely paved pathways for walking and hiking that weave throughout the park—-winding through and over a series of bridges including an authentic covered bridge, gorgeously crafted by the Amish folk who live nearby.
Bike rentals are offered and provide an extra fun way to zip through the paved route, stopping at any/all vantage points at your own leisurely pace. If you pre-plan, the park allows you to bring bikes from home. Or, when opting to take a motorized Segway, you’ll spend a short time getting trained and then be guided on a 90-minute adventure throughout the preserve. A highlight for kids in particular is when you stop to admire Glory Hole, a magnificent waterfall that cascades into a gorgeous pool full of colorful rainbow trout, waiting for you to feed them a snack.
An open-air tram tour is a fun and relaxing way to enjoy your time, especially if you feel the walk or a bike ride may be hard on the little ones. Each guided tour lasts two hours and educates you about the history of the beautiful surroundings. There is a strong likelihood that, as the tram makes its way across the Arkansas border, you’ll enjoy sightings of bison, elk or some other furry creatures. Advance reservations are strongly recommended and separate fees (in addition to general admission) are required.
Exploring the grounds on horseback is thrilling. The one- or two-hour guided equine tour, led by full-fledged wranglers, takes you and your crew into parts of the park that cannot be visited otherwise. Newly built Little Indian Stables is situated along the creek and contains two-dozen stalls, housing majestic horses. Advance reservations are required and separate fees (in addition to general admission) are charged.
Check out www.dogwoodcanyon.org for pricing, hours and more in-depth information about the park.
A Daylong Adventure or an Overnight Stay
Less than three-and-a-half hours from Tulsa makes for a doable (yet rather long) day trip to Dogwood. Lodging options are plentiful. Unfortunately, for now, the cabins on property are not available. However, a host of low budget to high-end motels, hotels and resorts can be found nearby.
Our favorite is Big Cedar Lodge, a mere 20 minutes from the canyon. This nationally acclaimed resort provides a perfect extension for a nature-themed family trip. Consistently awarded by Travel and Leisure as one of the best in its class, Big Cedar Lodge sits along Table Rock Lake, just outside of Branson, and is best known for its outstanding ability to entertain outdoor adventure seekers, nature lovers, golfers, boaters and more. Rustic sophistication and comfort awaits you in one of the many lodging choices available, including standard rooms, suites, cottages and larger cabins. A variety of restaurants are on-site for your hungry crew.
Always adapting to meet its guests’ desires, the resort has evolved and grown—-now offering Cedar Creek spa with its indoor grotto pool and Bass Pro Shop’s Outdoor Academy for archery, skeet and clay. Big Cedar just keeps adding to the mix of activities available to its guests. Visit www.BigCedar.com for details and note that advance reservations (and often a minimum of two-night stays) are required.
Time Is Of the Essence
Dogwood Canyon is a tranquil sanctuary where you can find peace among the chaos of school, sports, recitals and homework. Opportunities at Dogwood can instill an inherit love for the great outdoors and the importance of preserving its beauty.
The park is open year round with the exception of Christmas. Although an amazing place no matter the season, there is a particular draw during fall, when colored foliage is prolific. So, why not get back to nature now, and visit Dogwood Canyon this autumn?