The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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October 19, 2012

Dave Woods: Fall foliage coming to life in Branson

JOPLIN, Mo. — Ross Summers loves fall in the Ozarks.

“It really is my favorite time of year,” said Summers, president and chief executive officer of the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. “When you combine the Ozark Mountains and look at all of the colors and the hickory trees and oaks and maples, this week is a perfect example of the beauty of the Ozarks. The combination of the lakes and hills and trees, it’s just spectacular.”

Through the end of October, Summers said many varieties of Ozarks foliage are at their peak of color and beauty.

“If you are a leaf peeper, like a lot of people, this is the perfect time of year,” he said.

Summers, a Branson native and veteran of the chamber crew, suggested checking out the organization’s website, ExploreBranson.com, for a listing on fall foliage tours, maps and events.

“Some tours are around the Tri-Lakes area and some go down into Arkansas,” he said. “The tours available in our area show off the Ozark mountains, and we are really proud of the tours available. Folks come from all over to take those tours.”

As Summers came of age in the Branson area, so did one of the area’s main attractions, Silver Dollar City. He laughed as he recounted one of the area’s tales that demonstrates its residents’ commitment to the natural beauty of the Ozarks and to its trees and landscape.

“Out at Silver Dollar City, it’s part of their corporate culture,” he said. “Even when they put in a new ride or building, they save as many trees as they possibly can.”

One of the best examples is the new roller coaster that will be opening in March, he said. The coaster is built into the side of the hills and runs right through the forest, to where a rider could almost reach out and touch the trees, he said.

The old story goes, Summers said, that Jack Herschend, one of the two brothers who run the park, got fired by his mother in the early days of the park because he cut down a dogwood tree.

“Of course she hired him right back,” Summers said.

Summers, a member of the Ozarks Rivers Heritage Foundation -- which operates the Dewey Short Visitors Center and many of the parks around Table Rock Lake -- said now is the perfect time to experience what the Ozarks have to offer. The new visitors center offers a great view of the lake, he said.

Summers also said this is the perfect time to give Ozarks outdoor camping a go.

“This is the time to come down,” he said. “It’s been 70 degrees and sunshine. You can’t beat that. Camping here in the Ozarks and around the lakes is so nice. It’s cool in the evenings. You can build a campfire and do some hiking during the day.”

Summers encouraged area residents to check out the White River Trail, which features 10 miles of hiking and biking trails through hardwood forests.

Anglers will enjoy fall fishing on the area’s lakes as well, he added.

“If you are a fisherman, it’s a great time of the year,” said Summers. “Fishing has been really good all year. The fishermen tell me that the flood last year contributed to great fishing this year. Trout fishing is always good on Taneycomo and they say the bass fishing is good this time of year, too. We got a really good fall for all kinds of activities.”

Duffers, Summers said, will enjoy a round of fall golf on the area’s numerous nationally recognized courses, which take advantage of the terrain and trees that surround all the courses.

While Summers encourages visitors to check out the area’s hiking and biking trails, he also encourages folks to check out the Ozarks’ fall foliage by boat. Specifically, a kayak -- he recommends starting at the Table Rock Dam and floating to Branson. That’s the best way to experience the lake, he said.

“Lake Taneycomo, with all of the canyons and the valleys that it provides, is really something,” he said. “It’s great to float down the White River Valley and see the bluffs that border the lake. They are steep and high and filled with beautiful, colorful trees.”

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