Beautiful. That was the first word that came to mind when I set foot for the first time at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park last Saturday.

The first pieces of the property that would become known as Dogwood Canyon were acquired by Bass Pro Founder and CEO Johnny Morris in 1990. The park in Lampe is now owned and managed by the Dogwood Canyon Foundation, which is a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of the canyon’s natural plant and wildlife environment.

Even though I’ve lived in the Branson area for a combined total of nearly a decade, and have visited many of Johnny Morris’ other properties at least once, this was the first time I’d taken a trip out to Dogwood Canyon. I’ve always wanted to drive there for a visit. I mean, it’s less than an hour’s drive from Branson. 

So what finally got me out to the 10,000 acre park for a visit? Well,l for several months now a plan has been in place for me and my friend Tiffany to venture out to the park. Well, last weekend it finally warmed up enough to make it happen. And since pretty much everything else was still closed due to the pandemic, it made for a perfect time to check out the property. 

Unfortunately for us, a few hundred other people also had the same idea. Luckily, it’s a pretty large property, so staying socially distant from everyone was not too much of a issue, and the further you got into the property, the fewer people there were.

Upon reaching the property, I was immediately blown away by how beautiful it was. Even the parking lot was surrounded by glorious views. As a visitor of Johnny Morris’ Big Cedar Lodge, multiple area golf courses and Wonders of Wildlife and Aquarium in Springfield, I knew I was going to be in for a treat, but what they’ve done at Dogwood Canyon, I believe, outshines any of those other properties. 

Throughout the entire property there are dozens of waterfalls. Some smaller waterfalls that make up the Little Indian Creek and some larger ones that come down from the top of the canyon itself. During our walk, Tiffany and I kept asking each other the same question. Are these waterfalls all natural, or are there some man-made/hidden water pumps at play here? After our trip, I took to the ol’ Google to see what I could find. When I didn’t find the answer I was looking for, I went straight to the source and sent Dogwood Canyon a message on Facebook. 

Here’s the response I received back, “The Ozarks is full of what are known as “wet-weather waterfalls” that naturally occur in our area during stormy seasons and heavy rains. At Dogwood Canyon, we want guests to enjoy these whenever they visit and have enhanced what would naturally occur to make this available to all guests during every season.”

Now I feel is a good time to point out that since 2019, I’ve been on a life-changing health journey. After weighing in at 375 pounds just weeks before my 28th birthday, I knew a lifestyle change needed to be made. Sharing my entire health journey is probably best left for another time, but I’ll at least give you the highlights. Starting in March 2019, I completely changed my eating habits for the better. In October, I changed things up again with my diet when I began doing Keto. I also exercise on a regular basis now. Prior to COVID-19, I was regular at my gym, but these days I get my exercise by going on lots of walks and even doing the occasional Zumba class. At my most recent weigh-in I scaled-in at 293 pounds, so I’ve lost 82 pounds and hopefully said goodbye to them forever. I still have a long way to go, but I’m getting there. #GetTimSlim 

Now I shared that to share this next part. The paved walking trail that is set up at Dogwood Canyon is just over three miles long, so if you walk to the end and back again, it’s going to be about a six and a half mile journey. When we hit exactly three miles, we decided it would be best to go ahead and head back. So we walked a total of six miles. The paved walking trail is flat throughout the entire property, with the exception of a few small hills and the numerous bridges.

I’m fairly confident that if I still weighed 375 pounds, I would have probably collapsed after the first mile or so, and poor Tiffany would have had to roll me into the water and let me float back to the parking lot. So completing a six mile walk, without dying, is a true victory in my book.

I’ll add that the victory is even sweeter because I spent the last two miles of our walk soaking wet from the waist down. Let me explain. Joining us on our walk was Tiffany’s rescue dog Sammy. Now Sammy is a pretty small guy, maybe 12 pounds. Well, Sammy waded into a part of the stream just a little too far for a drink, the current grabbed him just right and sucked him down into the water. Luckily for both of us I was a lifeguard as a teenager. Even luckier, the water was only about three and half feet deep. Sammy was fine and completely unfazed by the whole experience. I got to finish our walk in wet socks and shoes, but I earned a fun story to share with all of you. 

Now for those who don’t want to just take a walk at Dogwood Canyon, they do have a ton of other options. They have biking, fishing, horseback riding and even Segway and guided tram tours. Visitors to the park can also check out the Mill and Canyon Grill Restaurant and the nature and conservation center. There is a cost just to enter the property to walk and an additional cost to do any of the other activities. But based on what I’ve read, all the funds are put right back into the conservation and maintenance of the park. 

Now if you’re looking for my opinion, and you just want to spend a day taking it all in and taking it slow, I would recommend taking a walk, finding one of the more secluded waterfalls to sit by and enjoy the sounds of nature. Personally, I’m excited to go back during the fall when the leaves change. I imagine it would be like walking through an entirely different park.

As someone who has lived in Missouri for his entire life, the beauty of the Ozarks shouldn’t surprise me. But I’m constantly amazed by the natural breathtaking views the Show Me State has to offer. Honestly, Missouri is a gorgeous state, and Dogwood Canyon is just another perfect example of that beauty. I would highly recommend anyone to take a trip, by themselves or with their family, and spend the day at Dogwood Canyon.

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