Fun activities in Branson that won’t break the bank

Table Rock Lake Dam is between the Dewey Short Visitor Center and Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery.

When I mention Branson to people, they often think of traffic on Highway 76, music shows, theme parks, and spending a lot of money.

Estimates indicate that the Branson area is frequented daily by up to 65,000 visitors pumping nearly 1.5 billion dollars yearly into the local economy.

With that said, many people think a lot of cash is necessary to enjoy this popular tourist destination.

I disagree.

Here’s a few places to check out that won’t break the bank:

#1 — Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery is the largest trout hatchery ran by the Missouri Department of Conservation. It is just below Table Rock Dam.

At the fish hatchery.

The hatchery’s conservation center is free. The public can learn more about trout, aquatic life in general, fishing, and aquatic resource management.

Personally, my daughter really enjoyed seeing the turtle tank setups and learning more about what the hatchery does by watching their educational film.

There are also walking trails on the property. Check online for their hours of operation, or call in advance at (417) 334-4865.

#2 — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Dewey Short Visitor Center is on Highway 165 at the south end of Table Rock Dam. It is free to the public and has exhibits about the White River Watershed, local habitats, Table Rock Dam, and more.

I appreciated the water safety exhibits and learning more about the water safety mascot, Bobber the dog. He has his own website with information, games, and coloring pages. The site,, is a great resource for children.

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This visitor center is a great resource for people of all ages.

#3 — College of the Ozarks is one of the most interesting universities in our nation because it has always encouraged students to graduate debt-free without student loans.

Their work-study programs, as well as their patriotic and Christian values, are the foundation of their university. They encourage visitors on their campus and now that I have visited, I understand why. There is so much to see and do!

Edwards Mill and the Gaetz Tractor Museum are just two of the many free sights to see on campus, but the one that I found most interesting did come with a minimal cost.

The Ralph Foster Museum focuses on the history of the Ozarks. From the original Beverly Hillbillies vehicle to the extensive firearm collection, I was simply amazed by the vast amount of treasures this unique museum contains.

I especially enjoyed the areas dedicated to the music of the Ozarks and the rich history of College of the Ozarks.  

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