Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stories from the Road -- Lake Taneycomo, MO

When you look at people from high above, they look no different than any other animal.

There is a viewpoint at Table Rock Lake Dam in southwest Missouri above Lake Taneycomo, which basically is the water downstream of the dam to the headwaters of Bull Shoal's Lake in Missouri and Arkansas. Lake Taneycomo may even be a misnomer to those who see it -- it looks much more like a river than a lake or reservoir. In fact, it is. Taneycomo is actually a part of the White River.

At this viewpoint, it is quite common to see a school of fishermen with fly rods casting and retrieving in such learned motions that you would swear they were involuntary. The overalls are a dead giveaway. In winter, wet suits make an appearance. Sometimes the clothes are flashy, even neon -- at others, perfect camouflage. Many times, there appears to be no rhyme or reason behind the recreation. Everyone seems to have a different approach, though chatting with them individually, they always seem to have great success.

These are trout fishermen -- a strange sight in latitudes this far south and in summers this warm. A companion location is Roaring River State Park (a future Stories from the Road entry), where the headwaters are from a deep, cold spring. Lake Taneycomo thrives from the cold, deep waters of Table Rock. Even though summertime temps commonly soar into the 80s and 90s, the waters of Taneycomo stay chilly enough for the trout population to thrive.

A hatchery is located at the dam and is worth a visit. I think hatcheries are amazing places -- thousands upon thousands of fish, requiring food frequently, necessitate a substantial amount of work and care to support the trout population in Taneycomo. The employees here know an uncanny amount of information about individual fish living in the hatchery, and their eyes alone indicate they love their jobs immensely.

From far above, the fishermen lose their distinctions. A neon hat may stick out, and an impatient fisherman may make a splash from time to time -- but they look like grizzlies waiting for a salmon to jump. Indeed, fishermen are hunters -- and they function no differently than an eagle prowling the water for its next kill.

I have many fond memories of Taneycomo. The canyon downstream of the dam is gorgeous. The first time I visited, I felt very, very small here. Taneycomo heads toward the south and east side of Branson, a frequent stop for Missouri visits. Here, Taneycomo boasts one of my favorite bridges of the area. The Lake Taneycomo Bridge is a beautiful open-spandrel bridge that connects Branson with eastern portions of Taney County. In one of my recent visits to Branson, I noticed the bridge had some structural issues. The website linked above confirms this, and renovation is planned next year. Hopefully, this bridge stays around for a long time.

Walks along Taneycomo now feature an open mall area on the east side of Branson. Though the area is obviously touristy, the walk is pleasant and the water simply a reminder of why this area is a relative hot spot of tourism. In fact, people almost involuntarily stare out at the water here. It is a part of their life -- a happy part of it.

A couple of mallards are a common sight on the water. They approach you in curiosity, then go about their business. They always seemed like happy birds. Given their surroundings, it's not that difficult to understand why.

The magic of this area is that it encourages people to become more primitive, more primal. The water makes things simpler, more basic. Days are spent fishing here, or taking a boat ride, or taking a cruise through the woods. The people who live here enjoy the simple things, and live among them. From far above, you can see that.

Lake Taneycomo Bridge

Shore walk on Branson side of Lake Taneycomo


View of Lake Taneycomo from the Table Rock Dam

The hatchery

Trout -- including an albino.

Lake Taneycomo -- Spring 2009

Table Rock Lake Dam