The pristine White River which winds its way through Missouri and Arkansas was intended by nature to be a place for anglers to float the sparkling shoals float fishing. For the first half of the 20th Century it was internationally famous for just that reason. High on a bluff, overlooking the river, was a large flat rock ledge, which came to be known as Table Rock.
Back in the logging days, when much of the grand oak woodlands were timbered by men and mules to feed the growing railways with much needed ties, the river served as the means to transport the logs to the railheads. Masses of logs, and cut ties were floated down river, lashed together in great rafts, which clever anglers soon discovered were an ideal way to float fish. Climbing aboard the rafts, fishermen would float until they hit upon a sweet spot, where they could stay and fish simply by slowing walking along the drifting timbers.
Early Entrepreneurs began organizing guided float trips, and one of the earliest was Jim Owen, who expertly marketed the region and his guide service by inviting a writer from Outdoor Life magazine to visit and fish as the floated the clear waters of the river that lie beneath the Table Rock. The national attention gained from the publication increased tourism to the area dramatically, and Owen again was ahead of the curve when he built the first theater in downtown Branson, along the White River.
Progress, and development meant great changes for the river, bringing several dams to impound its waters and supply electricity to the region. First was the Powersite dam, which created Lake Taneycomo
. Then in the 1950's a much bigger dam was built. The engineers sought to place the dam at the sight of the Table Rock, but further investigation revealed caves in the vicinity so the project moved up stream to its current location. Table Rock Lake
brought with its abundant hydroelectric power, a reservoir of recreation. Now a place for great bass fishing, no longer river float-fishing, and a host of water sports.
Branson has developed exponentially since then as well, growing from the Owen Theater, which is still in operation downtown, to more than 50 spectacular theaters.
But some things never change, the Ozark Mountains will always be a place for family vacations, fishing, fun, and music. And the Table Rock is still there, a silent witness to progress.