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Views and opinions: Dogwood Canyon’s worth a visit if traveling to Branson


Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is a beautiful place. The canyon is huge, covering 10,000 acres of pristine Ozark Mountain landscape in Branson, Mo.

The land was acquired in 1990 by Johnny Morris, the CEO founder of Bass Pro Shops, and except for a bit of assistance to enhance the natural beauty and make the park navigable, the crystal-clear trout streams, cascading waterfalls and ancient burial caves are close to how it was when Native Americans walked the land.

Today the park is managed by the Dogwood Canyon Foundation, a nonprofit that protects the plant life and natural environment. The park reopened not long ago, after extensive flooding last year. Guide Nancy Lee said it was closed for five months.

Visitors can come to this private park and for a fee can walk, bike or tour. There is a restaurant on-site, the Mill and Canyon Grill, along with a working grist mill. There is also a gift shop and a museum area of Native American artifacts from Morris’ collection.

Collectors will enjoy knowing that while this mill was reconstructed on-site in 2016, it was originally built in 1905. Blake Adams is the head miller and he explained the entire structure – the wheel, the stone and everything involved – is referred to as the mill.

Prior to working at Dogwood Canyon Mill he worked at the Edwards Mill at College of the Ozarks. Blake talked a bit about the origin of this mill, which came out of Bent Mountain Mill in Franklin County, Va.

“The process was featured on (the television show) ‘Salvage Dawgs,’” he said. The mill was salvaged in 2013; its castings were made locally in Salem, Va., by Salem Machine Works.

“The mill was started in 1905, so it is 113 years old,” Blake said. While it may be over the century mark, the mill runs like a top. “We do three demonstrations a day and produce runs when needed. We grind corn and grits and use them in our restaurant.”

When heading out to the mill, visitors can see it work in action or just visit and see the water wheel and the other mill sections at rest. The area has some collectibles, making this a fun farm find.

When visiting, be sure to check out the beauty of Dogwood Canyon – a trolley tour offers a chance to see a large part of the park, and even includes the animals. The tours are on comfortable, open-air trams. Tours last two hours and wind through the canyon floor.

Visitors will view towering bluffs and waterfalls, making a stop at the Glory Hole (a magnificent blue-green pool where some of the largest trout reside) and have a chance to see the beautiful chapel where many weddings take place. Nancy said usually only Morris is allowed to fish at the Glory Hole but she named some famous people, like former President George Bush, the late country singer Waylon Jennings and others, who have also had the pleasure.

The tram tour takes visitors from Missouri on across the Arkansas border where the tour may mingle with herds of American bison, elk, whitetail deer and Texas longhorn. The animals are quite majestic, and a great photo-op.

If visiting in the spring, there is a good chance of seeing just why this area was named Dogwood Canyon, as the trees burst into bloom. Nancy took the riders back to a time when European settlers first entered the area, and even further to explore the mark that Native Americans left on these Missouri hills and hollows.

She explained that in a few of the cave areas that have been deemed unsafe for exploration researchers found early Native American burials dating back to 900 A.D. and earlier.

For more information about a trip to Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, log onto

(Note: In my May 23 column, I submitted the wrong photo with the text about the 1938 John Deere L – owned by Marvin Swanson and Alex Samuelson – that worked at the Deere Family Friendship Farm. Here is the correct photo! My sincere apologies for this mix-up.)


Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication. Learn more of Cindy’s finds and travel in her blog, “Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl,” at