City Facts and Tourism Info for Branson, MO
Branson, population 6,050, is located in southwest Missouri, 35 miles south of Springfield. It is ranked 16th among all overnight vacation sites in the United States. Top Branson activities include: attending shows, shopping, visiting theme parks, engaging in outdoor recreation and sports, participating in water activities and visiting historical sites.
According to the Branson Chamber of Commerce, Branson has hosted 7.2 million visitors. Within its 17.5 square miles of area, Branson has 412 restaurants with 34,494 seats, and 45 theaters with 56,228 seats. (This is more theater seats than New York City's Broadway!)
Branson has a long and unique history, dating back to the 1300s, when the first inhabitants were probably the nomadic Osage tribes. The first white visitors, French and Spanish explorers and fur traders, came in the 1700s, causing clashes between themselves and the native Osage tribes. In 1803, the land where Branson now sits was sold from France to the United States in the famous Louisiana Purchase. Eventually, broken treaties with the Osage allowed settlers to overcome the natives, and English, Irish and Scottish farmers from Kentucky and Tennessee flooded the area. They settled the Ozark Country and made a unique and independent culture that was somewhat secluded and closed off from other influences. The area's scenery began to draw visitors, and today the beautiful mountains and lakes, as well as the rich concentration of entertainment, draw millions of visitors each year.
In 1907, Howard Bell Wright visited the people of the Ozarks and explored Marvel cave, inspiring him to write the famous novel Shepherd of the Hills. Tourists still come to Branson to see the sites that inspired this beloved story.
One renowned aspect of Branson is the surrounding lake country. Lake Taneycomo has always been a source of pride and fame for Branson, as it helped the city survive during the years of the Depression as an inexpensive travel destination for people in the Midwest. In 1959, Table Rock Dam was completed, and today Lake Taneycomo is too cold for swimming because it is fed by the cold spring waters of Table Rock Lake. Table Rock Lake is now a first-class trout fishing location.
Also in 1959, the Mabes Family came to Branson from Springfield, bringing their jug band, the Ozarks Jubilee Show. They performed in the evenings in the basement of the City Hall, and became known as The Baldknobbers. Another famous jug band was the Presleys. These two pioneering groups eventually built their own theaters in the 1960s on Highway 76, drawing throngs of visitors to sold-out performances. The success of these first Branson performers soon began to draw other acts and celebrities, and today, there are over 40 theaters along 'the Strip.'