You don’t have to grow out of that kind of warm-weather freewheeling fun. One of the biggest perks of living in 417-land is access to some of the state’s most gorgeous outdoor landscapes and hidden gems. This summer, make the most of our geographical gifts, and commit yourself to having a summer exploring them in some amped-up adventures. Instead of just lounging by the pool, get out outside for some more adrenaline-pumping escapades. Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself an adventurous type. We start small with kid-friendly and beginner-friendly activities and build up to the more daring options that will surely get your heart pumping. So what are you waiting for? Get out there, and make it happen!
A master on the paddleboard, Jodelle Fitzwater makes her way to one of her favorite paddleboarding spots on Table Rock Lake.
Photo by Kevin O'Riley
Dying to hit the open water, but not so fond of high speeds? We understand. To quench your desire for some quality time out on the lake, try stand-up paddleboarding. With only a board and a paddle, this sport is a cross between surfing and kayaking, and it’s definitely made a splash on local waters. Big Cedar Lodge (612 Devil’s Pool Rd., Ridgedale, 417-335-2777, bigcedar.com) started offering guided stand-up paddleboard classes last summer, and now water enthusiasts can paddle around the lake during one of Big Cedar’s night glide sessions or enjoy yoga class on a paddleboard. Private, individual and group stand-up paddleboarding classes are also offered by Jodelle Fitzwater of Get Fit With Jodelle (417-230-0554, getfitwithjodelle.com). Fitzwater also teaches PaddleFit classes at 6 p.m. on Friday nights throughout the summer at Williams Brothers Ski & Sports (located at What's Up Dock? in the Port of Kimberling Marina).
It’s time to strap on those skis, tighten your life jacket and plunge into one of 417-land’s top sports: water skiing. Need some skis first? No problem. 417-land is well stocked with boat and ski rental spots, including:
Williams Brothers Ski & Sports
26063 State Hwy. 39, Shell Knob, 417-858-6366, williamsskiandsports.com
The Ski Shack
3443 Indian Point Rd., Branson, 417-338-8481, indianpointmarina.com
Mutton Creek Marina & Campgrounds
18 Mutton Creek Loop, Greenfield, 417-995-3355, muttoncreekmarina.com
Cable Park WakeBoarding
Already mastered skiing? Then it's time to try your luck at wakeboarding. If you don’t have a boat on hand or you’re not quite ready to hit the open water, don't worry. Just stop by Ski Shack (5539 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-882-8480, theskishack.com) to try out the new cable park. Instead of miles of open water, this waterfront is just 600 feet long and 100 feet wide, and it doesn’t get much deeper than 6 feet. And instead of a boat pulling you along, wakeboarders are propelled forward by a pulley system that runs a cable down the middle of the lake. While no boat means no wakes, the park is still set up for jumps and obstacles, and speeds range from 13– to 30–miles-per-hour.
Meet Tim Broadbent
As an award-winning slalom skier, coach and all-around athlete on the lake, Tim Broadbent takes skiing to the next level.
Looking to face a challenge on the water? Try slalom skiing. Tim Broadbent taught himself how to slalom ski while he was in college.
Photo courtesy Tim Broadbent.
If you’ve ever been cruising around the lake and seen someone fly by on one ski, you’ve probably thought, “That looks impossible!” Well, it’s not. But it is difficult to pull off, and if there’s one guy you want teaching you to slalom ski, it’s probably Tim Broadbent. Since learning how to ski the slalom course back when he was in college, Broadbent has been instrumental in helping bring awareness of the sport to the Midwest. He even helped start the skiing team at Missouri State University and served as the volunteer coach for the team for its first two years. On top of that, Broadbent won the Men’s 3 State Slalom Championship twice and placed in the top 20 at the water ski nationals in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Broadbent first learned how to ski when he was 6 years old. “I grew up in a family of fishermen, and I was bored with it,” he says laughing. “I would go with my family up to my grandparents’ cabin on the lake, and I remember seeing boats pulling skiers and thinking, ‘That looks really fun. I’d rather be doing that.’”
Broadbent’s love of skiing took a more adventurous turn in college when he and a friend taught themselves how to slalom ski, and from there, Broadbent has hardly gotten out of the water.
What’s the draw? The speed. “The boats usually go between 34 and 36 miles-per-hour,” Broadbent says. “And you generate even more speed when you cut out across the course, so your speed nearly doubles.” Imagine a course made up of six buoys. A ski boat drives down a center line, and the slalom skier goes out and around each of the buoys. That’s a regular slalom course. And, as you might imagine, balancing on one specially made ski, as you whip in and out of those buoys, you need some pretty serious balance and core strength.
If we haven’t scared you off this sport yet, Broadbent suggests calling your local ski rental shop and asking around about ski lessons. Then you, too, will be flying across a slalom course in no time.
At Bonne Terre Mine, scuba divers explore an old abandoned mining community dozens of feet below the earth's surface.
Douglas Goergens, West End Diving Center
There are several local rivers and streams great for snorkeling near Springfield, but if you feel like making a day of it, head to Big Sugar Creek, a scenic tributary on the Elk River. Located in Pineville, the creek features an unusually clear stream most of the year, making it the perfect place to spot interesting rocks, crawfish, fish and other organisms, and Pineville is a fun little town to explore after you’re out of the water.
Scuba Diving at Table Rock Lake
The closest ocean may be hundreds of miles away, but that doesn’t stop daring 417-landers from taking a plunge into deep dark waters. If you’re looking to do a little water exploration of your own, get your scuba diving certification. DiVentures (5225 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-883-5151, diventures.net) offers scuba classes throughout the week, and it regularly hosts open-water certification dives at the lake. “You’ll learn how to use equipment, how to be safe in the water and what to do in certain situations, should they arise,” says Kathy Glaser, the aquatics director at DiVentures.
J.B. Farley, co-owner of White River Dive Company (5325 Missouri 165, Branson, 417-334-9073, whiteriverdiveco.com) says the certification process at White River also includes complete training and open-water dives, as well as refresher courses. “You may be certified but haven’t been in a while—these courses help get people back up to par,” Farley says. Once you’re certified, sink into Table Rock Lake to explore a wide variety of aquatic life, a few wrecked cabin cruisers and sailboats and even goodies that people may have dropped from their boats. “There’s always something to find,” Farley says. If you’re looking to dive with a group of people, ask Glaser or Farley; there are several scuba clubs and groups in 417-land.
Scuba Diving at Bonne Terre Mine
More courageous divers can take a day trip to Bonne Terre Mine (185 Park Ave., Bonne Terre, 314-209-7200, 2dive.com). Located just a little more than three hours northeast of Springfield, the site (once the world’s largest lead mine) was listed as one of America’s Top 10 Greatest Adventures by National Geographic Adventure. While visiting Bonne Terre, the world’s largest fresh-water dive resort, daring guests first walk down 65 steps to the top level, which sits 200 feet below the earth’s surface. Then, they can begin their exploration with one of 50 dive tours offered, which are dived sequentially. “Visualize a giant five-story parking garage inside of the Astrodome, filled from the bottom to level three with water,” says Doug Goergens, who owns the mine with his wife Catherine. “That’s like the mine. When you go in, the top two levels are dry.” Diving is conducted in groups. They dive 40 to 60 feet deep on average, and they plunge into water that stays 60°F year-round. While diving, they explore the old mining community that was closed and abandoned in 1962, seeing everything from old rail systems and ore cars to “the city,” which features labs, office buildings, mule stables and even a movie theater. “The stuff was all just left here—it wasn’t worth it for them to salvage it,” Goergens says. And to make sure you don’t miss a thing, the mine is illuminated with more than 500,000 watts of lighting. “It’s unlike any other diving place in the world,” Goergens says. If you’re not up for the dive, you can still explore Bonne Terre Mine—the spot also offers boat and walking tours of its upper levels.
There are more than 6,300 caves in Missouri, with many of them in 417-land. If you’re not quite ready to venture into the deep darkness on your own, visit Fantastic Caverns (4872 N. Farm Rd. 125, Springfield, 417-833-2010, fantasticcaverns.com). This is the only cave tour in America where you can enjoy the whole exploration from the comfort of your seat in a modified jeep.
Ready to up the ante just a bit? Gibbony Cave at Doling Park (301 E. Talmage St., Springfield, 417-837-5900, parkboard.org) is one of the few local caves that’s open to the public. But there’s one catch: The cave is only open for guided tours about once a month starting in April. Groups of 12 to 15 people are led deep into the cave. Besides getting plenty muddy, visitors can get a glimpse of the wildlife that calls these dark halls home including tri-colored bats, crawdads and salamanders. Tours last about 45 minutes, or if you’re brave enough, you can sign up for the extended tour that takes you on your hands and knees through some of the cave’s side tunnels and up and over the cave’s waterfall. Walking tours cost $4 per person, and tunnel tours costs $6. Tours take place on June 7, August 23, September 20 and October 11.
If you want to crawl your way through a cave without a guided tour, you should join a caving club first. In Springfield, you’ll find the Springfield Plateau Grotto and the Ozark Highlands Grotto. In Branson, look for the Branson Area Tri-Lakes Grotto. These groups can train you on the proper techniques and equipment used and will lead you into caves you didn’t even know existed. These underground worlds are home to a variety of often-times endangered species, including the Ozark Cave Fish—a tiny 2-inch fish that has no pigment and no eyes. Eek! Strap on your helmet, and enjoy the underbelly of the Ozarks.
Take an orienteering class
Now that our cars and phones have GPS, it seems impossible to get lost. But what happens when you lose cell service and you’re not in your car? (Cue scary music.) Well, the true adventurers at Hiking the Ozarks (hikingtheozarks.com) are here to help. Each year, this group hosts a range of classes covering basic survival to orienteering, and the next basic land navigation class is coming up September 13.
Start your schooling off in a classroom where you’ll learn how to read topographical maps and how to draw a bearing with a compass and a map. Then it’s time to put your new skills to the test by identifying landmarks and navigating your way through a series of checkpoints using your compass and map. The whole tutorial lasts four to five hours and costs $15 per person. Sign up on Facebook or call 417-844-5834.
This real-world treasure hunt will have you scouring 417-land for hidden goodies. While you’re not likely to unearth actual treasure, you will discover your inner Indiana Jones as you use GPS and those eagle eyes to navigate your way to hidden caches. “The first place to start if you’re new to geocaching is geocaching.com,” says local geocacher Jim Rodell. Rodell has found geocaches in 39 states and has more than 5,400 caches under his belt. “You can create a free user account at geocaching.com and get access to local caches, watch video tutorials and find other resources,” he says. And you can download the Groundspeak geocaching app for $9.99.
You can also get caught up on all you need to know at one of The Springfield-Greene County Park Board’s basic geocaching classes on June 14, September 27 and October 18 at Ritter Springs Park (3683 W. Farm Rd. 92, Springfield) from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Each class costs $8 per person or $10 for two people. Registration is required a week before the class, so be sure to reserve your spot by calling 417-833-8923.
If you’re searching for other geocache enthusiasts, check out the Ozark Mountain Geocachers on Facebook to learn about upcoming meetings and caches.
If you’re already proficient at using GPS, and you’ve jerry-rigged your compass to your keychain, then you might be ready to tackle the true test of your outdoor orienteering skills: An Adventure Race. But be warned, these races aren’t for the faint of heart. Yes, you can sign up for a shorter adventure race and survive, but traditionally, these races range from several hours to several days as participants hike, climb and even paddle their way through navigational checkpoints located in the heart of the wilderness. Up for the challenge? Here are a couple of upcoming adventure races fairly close to home:
The Berryman Adventure
This 12– to 16–hour race takes participants through a winding course in the Mark Twain National Forest. Teams of two to four people can register for $139. For more info visit dynamicearth.net.
Perfect 10 Rogaine
This 10-hour race at Lake of the Ozarks State Park challenges racers' navigational skills. Unlike other adventure races that combine a range of skills, this long-distance orienteering event is done entirely on foot. The event is free and open to solo teams or teams with as many as four people. Find more info at dynamicearth.net.
Up for a geocaching adventure? We hid an (unofficial) cache somewhere in Springfield, and it is full of fun little treasures. To find the coordinates, just visit 417mag.com/geocache. We’re in the process of making it official, but in the meantime you can go find it. Just take a selfie with it if you’re the first person to locate it, and call us to let us know. If you want to start geocaching as a hobby, you can find lots of official caches in 417-land and across the globe at geocaching.com.
Guests as young as 14 years old are welcome to attend Sankey Rodeo School's Vision Quest Adventure.
Photo by Ed Arnold
Hop on the Carousel at Silver Dollar City
A little too nervous for the real thing? Take the kids to the carousel at Silver Dollar City (399 Silver Dollar City Parkway, Branson, 417-336-7100, silverdollarcity.com). Park-goers young and old will love the bright colors and beautifully painted horses, mules and bears on this restored vintage ride that was originally designed in 1983. Located in the Half Dollar Holler play area, the ride features 26 hand-carved animals and old-timey buggies.
Learn the fundamentals of horse riding and horse care at Cliff Hartman Farms (Quarter Horse Dr., Marshfield, 417-859-2200, cliffhartmanfarms.com). Children six years and older are taught both Western and English styles of riding as well as how to brush, saddle and care for a horse.
If playing cowboy for a day or two is more your speed than taking ongoing lessons, take your kids, your friends, your sweetie or just about anybody who’s up for it for a little local trail ride. There are numerous places where you can see the Ozarks on horseback, and these are just a few of them:
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
2038 E. State Hwy. 86, Lampe, 417-779-5983, dogwoodcanyon.net
Go for: Trail rides and cattle drives
Bucks and Spurs Guest Ranch
Douglas County Farm Road A422, Ava, 417-683-2381, bucksandspurs.com
Go for: Weekend trips, cattle drives and trail rides
Uncle Ike's Trail Rides, Inc.
8393 W. Hwy. 76, Notch, 417-338-8449, uncleikestrailride.com
Go for: Trail rides
Bear Creek Trail Rides
Off Highway 65, 7 miles north of Branson, 417-337-7708
Go for: Trail rides
Become a Rodeo star
Love a good thrill? Step off mild-tempered horses and saddle up on a bucking bronco or bull at Sankey Rodeo School (3943 Sycamore Church Rd., Branson, 417-263-7777, sankeyrodeo.com). If you want to try your luck at rodeo for a weekend without buying all of your own equipment, consider signing up for the Vision Quest Adventure experience. Each three-day school provides one-on-one attention designed for all athletic and experience levels. Sankey customizes to individual capabilities by setting up students on simulation units and training stations and running a variety of different drills. Furthering your learning experience, personal instruction comes complete with instant replays for teaching reference. Adventurous types age 14 and older can participate in Vision Quest Adventure. Livestock is brought in for riding as early as the first day of the event, making it an action-packing learning experience.
Branson Balloon offers hot air balloon rides over Branson and surrounding areas. The company is one of several participants in the Branson Balloon Festival, an annual event that will take place in August this year.
Parasail at Table Rock Lake
Imagine this: You and your best buddy are soaring through the air 200 feet above Table Rock Lake, gliding along without a care in the world. If this sounds like a good time, head to American Parasail (380 State Park Marina Rd., Branson, 417-334-2628, stateparkmarina.com) on Table Rock Lake. Captain Sam Sandt has been flying brave passengers above the crystal-blue waters for 18 years, and he says it’s an experience that’s both relaxing and exciting.
Float Over Branson in a Hot Air Balloon
Up, up and away! If you haven’t ridden in a hot air balloon, you’re missing out on a thrilling adventure that’ll give you a bird’s-eye view of 417-land. Rodney Williams of Branson Balloon (417-336-6060, bransonballoon.com) says his balloon tours usually take adventurous spirits anywhere from 500 to 2,000 feet into the sky to give them a panoramic view of the beautiful Ozarks. “Then, we’ll drop down lower so they can see more details,” Williams says. “We fly near the lake, over golf courses and over Branson.” All of the flights with Branson Balloon include a Champagne ceremony (or sparkling cider ceremony for all the kiddos and non-drinkers) where Williams explains the history of hot air ballooning.
Powered parachuting takes adventurous souls as high as 2,000 feet in the air.
Fly a Powered Parachute Over 417-land
Alright, so maybe you’ve already parasailed and ridden in a hot air balloon. Heck, maybe you’ve even flown your own plane. Regardless, we have one extreme air adventure you probably haven’t tried: powered parachuting. Alice Baugh, who owns Baugh Flight Park (6079 Incline Rd., Reeds, 417-246-5459, baughflightpark.com) with her husband Ernie, says their company specializes in training individuals to fly powered parachutes. “It’s a cart that looks almost like a go-cart with a chute on it,” Alice says. “Basically, you’re flying through the air in a little two-seater cart with a motor on it, but you’re in the open air.” While training, a pilot sits in the back seat as you take charge up front. The planes fly an average of 35 miles per hour and as high as 2,000 feet. But don't get too nervous—it can happen slowly, if you wish. “If someone is nervous, we’ll take it up gradually,” Baugh says. When you’re flying over 417-land, you’ll see everything from beautiful rolling hills and rivers to a variety of wildlife.
What the Heck is Flyboarding?
If you’re a frequent lake-goer, you may have noticed a brave soul or two flyboarding at the end of last summer. Khelon and Dru Hayes, the brother-sister team who owns Flyboard Branson (located at State Park Marina on Table Rock Lake), were experimenting with their new business venture. In flyboarding, the flyboarder straps into bindings on a board, much like they’re strapping on a wakeboard, and a jet ski powers a stream of water that lifts the board and the person into the air. “The first time, you only go a few feet in the air,” Dru says. But as you get better, you can go higher. “Khelon has gone 30 feet out of the water,” Dru says. Prices start at $139 per person for 30 minutes, and charter-hour prices are available for groups.
Great for adults and kids alike, White Water’s Aloha River moves tubers along at a leisurely 5 miles per hour.
Photo courtesy Silver Dollar City.
Float Down Aloha River at White Water Waterpark
Nothing beats the heat like floating down a cool, slow-moving river with the sun overhead. If packing up your family for a day trip down a creek sounds like more work than relaxation, ease into the Aloha River at White Water Waterpark (3505 W. Highway 76, Branson, 800-532-7529). This lazy river leisurely glides sunbathers on inner tubes around gentle twists and turns at a smooth 5 miles per hour. To spice things up along the way, hundreds of fountains tickle sleepy floaters with showers of water. Don’t worry about unexpected riffles on this mild ride; the Aloha River’s rapid rating is safely a class zero. If you are daring enough for a speedy water ride (even if you don’t want to brave nature’s white water), then try out the new 245-foot KaPau Plummet water slides that launch riders from a drop floor into a 70-degree plunge through a clear tube.
Brave the Tiny Rapids on the North Fork
Believe it or not, you can actually find some itty, bitty little rapids on the North Fork of the White River. Start your day at Sunburst Ranch (417-284-3443, sunburstranchcanoe.com), where you can rent a raft and don a life jacket. Floating adventurers of any age, size and capability can relax on a large six-person raft that Sunburst Ranch guarantees will not flip. A faster-moving river than most in the area, the North Fork has a decent 7.5 gradient that creates mild Class 1 riffles at various points along the whole river. With few rocks and obstacles close to the water’s surface, drifters have no problem gently maneuvering down the stream while enjoying the beautiful scenery and wildlife along the shore. The exciting riffle portions of the river alternate between fast and slow depending on the depth of the water at given points along the way, and are rated Class 1 and sometimes Class 2 out of 6 on the rapid scale.
Tackle Rapids at Buffalo National River
Daring souls who prefer canoeing and kayaking to rafting need look no further than Buffalo Outdoor Center (Buffalo Outdoor Center, 1 Main St. 43, Ponca, Arkansas, 870-861-5514, buffaloriver.com). Charming bluffs and sparkling waterfalls grace the tree line of the Buffalo National River for a photo-taking day trip. Replenished by rainfall and tributaries, the river is best to paddle down through mid-June. Class 1 and Class 2 riffles keep the ride lively at times. More than 50 sets of riffle locations dot a 10-mile route for continuous action. Rafting down this river is not recommended during the summer due to low water levels. Even those in canoes and kayaks may need to stand up and carry their boats over dry spots in certain locations. Buffalo Outdoor Center has everything you’ll need to get started, like life jackets, two-person canoes and one-person kayaks.
Ezra and Zeda Murdaugh recently enjoyed a fishing trip at Mountain Springs Trout Park. The water is fully stocked with rainbow trout, making it a great spot to take the kids for their first fishing adventure.
Photo by Kevin O'Riley
Snag a Trout
For families taking their little ones fishing for the first time, visit Mountain Springs Trout Park (2549 State Hwy. O, Highlandville, 417-443-3400, mountainspringstroutpark.com). A great option for beginners and kids who don’t necessarily have great fishing skills just yet, this hatchery is teeming with rainbow trout, making snagging one a fairly sure bet. They’ll clean any fish and pack up your catch, taking the ick-factor out, too. You don’t need a license, there’s no limit to how much you can catch and the fish you take home are $5.95 per pound. There are rods and tackle on-hand at the hatchery, but you’ll need to bring your own bait. While you’re there, grab some smoked trout to take home. We tried it; it’s delish!
Hire a Guide
A guided fishing trip is the next step for those looking for a fishing adventure, and Lilley’s Landing (367 River Lane, Branson) is a spot to check out. Lilley’s offers four-, six- and eight-hour trips year-round. The guides make your trip easy by providing everything you need including rods and reels, bait, bottled water and rain gear (just in case), and they even help you clean your catch.
Fish with a Bow
If you’re ready for a bold fishing adventure, call Big Cedar Lodge (612 Devil’s Pool Road, Ridgedale) and ask them about their guided bow fishing experience. Bow fishing is a unique sport that involves shooting fish with a bow and arrow from a raised boat deck. Big Cedar provides all the equipment—you just need to bring a fishing license.
Brandon Powell of Southern Missouri Off-Road Ranch enjoys braving the ranches many challenging trails in his modified Jeep. With some trails rated for stock vehicles and others rated “insane,” the ranch has a little something for everyone.
Photo by Kevin O'Riley
Ride Bikes and Trikes at the Park
Grab the kids, load up your cycles and head to Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park (2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield) for an afternoon of pedaling and playing. The South Creek Greenway runs through the southern portion of the park, and there are other connected trails and sidewalks that the family can navigate. As an added bonus, there are five botanical-themed Playpods where the little ones can climb on playground equipment shaped as butterflies, caterpillars, trees and more.
Get Muddy at Southern Missouri Off-Road Ranch
For some, there’s nothing more thrilling than climbing up into a modified Jeep, rolling down the windows and four-wheeling your way through the rugged Ozarks terrain. If getting some mud on your tires is your idea of a good time, check out Southern Missouri Off-Road Ranch (SMORR) (5722 Missouri K, Seymour, 417-773-4084, smorr.net). At 943 acres, SMORR features 45 electrical campsites, a campground and more than 100 trails, varying from tame stretches perfect for stock vehicles to significantly more intense trails that are rated “insane.” The trails weave through the landscape for nearly 150 miles and dip into deep ravines, plow through wet-weather creek beds and climb high over the rolling Ozarks mountains. With a layout composed of everything from flint rock to sandstone to clay mud, this spot is a place adventure enthusiasts definitely don’t miss. Just don’t forget the four-wheel drive.
Mountain Bike at Two Rivers Mountain Bike Park
Lucky for us, 417-land features many miles of bike trails, but what about those of us who want to pedal up mountains, fly down giant hills and face a plethora of other challenges? This was a question of Matt O’Reilly, who formed TrailSpring, the organization that opened Two Rivers Mountain Bike Park (5055 Two Rivers Rd., Highlandville, trailspring.org) last August. TrailSpring hired Progressive Trail Design in Fayetteville to design the park, which currently features three main trail areas. “There’s a small gateway and skill park, a network of cross-country trails and a downhill-specific component,” says TrailSpring Coordination Director Bruce Adib-Yazdi. Free and open to the public, Two Rivers invites riders to try out ramps, jumps and more at the skill park, pedal miles through the cross-country trails or brave it all as they fly down the park’s downhill section.
You can practice skeet, 5 stand, trap and sport shooting at Ozarks Shooters Sports Complex.
Play Around with Airsoft Guns
Take laser tag to a whole other level with an airsoft gun battle. Although airsoft guns look similar to firearms, they are actually airguns that shoot pellets. This military simulation sport can be played at several places in 417-land, including So Go Airsoft (2900 E Pythian St., Springfield, sogoairsoft.com, 417-719-4749). Open play games last 20 and 25 minutes, and guns and gear rentals cost $5 to $20. While playing, face masks are required. For a party, depending on the location, it can cost between $60 and $85 per hour. Open games are $3 per player.
Take On Some Clay Pigeons
Looking to perfect your shot? Whether you’re an avid hunter or you just enjoy firing a gun for fun, you can practice your wing shooting at Ozark Shooters Sports Complex (759 Highway 65, Walnut Shade, 417-443-3093, ozarkshooters.com). Skeet, 5 stand, trap and sport shooting are available. The spot is located 11 miles north of Branson, and it’s quite affordable: 25 rounds of targets are just $9.
Learn Tactical Gun Training
“In current law enforcement and firearm courses, long-distance shooting and line-up shot techniques fail 70 percent of the time,” says Matt Canovi, former Marine and law enforcement officer and creator of R.E.A.L Defense Shooting Systems (American Defense Academy, 623 E. 395th Rd., Dunnegan, 417-742-3435, mattcanovi.com). Learn how to protect your family with firearms in an eight-hour R.E.A.L Defense Shooting System Course that is specifically designed for close-range life-threatening situations. There are seven stages that include ground fighting, shooting on the move and techniques on close-quarter battling. Required equipment for this course includes a holster, weapon, two magazines or speed loaders and a minimum of 348 rounds of ammunition. Check out the practical handgun course for a more basic and cost-effective alternative. Training costs $225.
Rock climbing isn’t limited to the mountains of Colorado, and we’ve rounded up some of the best nearby climbing locations. But before you head out, make sure you’re prepared for a day of safe fun. Jason Roy, climbing guide at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch (Jasper, 870-446-2555, horseshoecanyonduderanch.com), has tips for keeping you safe and helping you learn how to climb. In addition to cabins, lodging, hiking and zip lines, Horseshoe Canyon offers some of the best rock climbing east of the Rockies.
Take a class. If you’re brand new to rock climbing, Roy says taking a few beginner-level classes before going out on your own is helpful to learn the basic skills you’ll need. Roy also says taking classes is a way to connect with other climbers. Take a day trip outside 417-land to The Bouldering Garden in Columbia (5400 Saint Charles Road, Columbia) to take a class or get some practice at their indoor climbing gym.
Climb with a guide. Some parks have rock climbing guides who can help you if you’re new to climbing or don’t know the area. Roy says to look for places that have guides certified through the American Mountain Guides Association, AMGA.
Get good gear. Roy suggests getting quality gear regardless of skill level. Beginning climbers should find less expensive shoes since they will wear them out as they’re learning the proper techniques.
Dynamic Earth (1110 E. Republic Road, Springfield) carries a variety of climbing gear from different brands. Head to Ozark Adventures (1111 E. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-889-6633, ozarkadventures.com) for even more quality climbing gear for your summer adventure.
Once you have the basics, you can practice your new skills at one of the five Missouri state parks that allow rock climbing. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is the closest to Springfield, but Elephant Rocks, Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Meramec and St. Francois are within a few hours’ drive and are great destinations for a rock climbing day trip.
A crowd has gathered close to the bluff, and you hear them chanting your name. Looking down at the drop off to the water, you develop a knot in your throat, and your stomach turns heavy. Then, a 12-year-old boy jumps off the cliff and into the water with a fearless intensity. After countless fakeouts and attempts, you finally muster up the courage to thrust your body over the edge and land into the lake.
There are many places around the Ozarks where daring divers experience the rush of cliff jumping. We aren’t saying we necessarily recommend this wild activity (and of course, we would never send our dear readers careening off a cliff). But if you’ve ever wondered where people jump, we have a list. Just saying…
Table Rock Lake
• Oswald Bluff above point 9
• Point 2 down toward Highway 86 Bridge by Ridgedale
Bull Shoals Lake
• South of point 3 in between the Missouri and Arkansas line at Pontiac Bluff
• By the Oakland Marina, in Arkansas at point 9
There are numerous places in 417-land where you can get your hands on power sports vehicles that will add a little horsepower to your summer fun. Here are just a few.
Spyders from Pitbull Powersports
1332 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-863-1418, pitbullpowersportsinc.com
Three wheels and a sleek design make this ride stand out from the crowd.
ATVs AND DIRT BIKES from Honda of the Ozarks
2055 E. Kerr St., Springfield, 417-862-4686, hondaoftheozarks.com
Get muddy on two wheels or four with a selection of dirt bikes and ATVs that will take you off-road.
Jet Skis from Ski Shack
5539 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-882-0475, theskishack.com
It’s just you and the open water on a jet ski, and it’s perfect for a quiet ride or a little wake-jumping.
Scooters from Kiss My Gas Scooters
2179 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-863-9600, kissmygasscooters.com
Forgo the backseat and even the roof, and hit the open road.