We just took our first trip to Top of the Rock to explore the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail and visit the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum. If you aren’t familiar with Top of the Rock, it is a heritage preserve located south of Branson, MO and is a Johnny Morris property, which automatically means it is going to be impressive.
The Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail is a two and a half mile trail overlooking Table Rock Lake where you will see waterfalls, cross bridges, and travel through a cave. The trail is accessible by golf carts that seat 4 adults or, in our case, 2 adults and 4 children.
The views are amazing and the trail offers places to pull-off to take a closer look and take pictures. Along the way are gorgeous waterfalls, rock formations, and landscaping.
The tour continues through Lost Canyon Cave. The cave features a four-story waterfall, skeletal models of prehistoric animals, and even a drive-through bar. The cave is breathtaking upon entering and seeing the waterfall.
There is no debate that the trail and cave are stunning. I am glad we went. However… much of that beauty has been enhanced. While driving the trail, you will see irrigation systems and fresh sod. Concrete can be seen on and in between rock formations. Granted, some of the concrete in the rocks is likely there for safety reasons and to help ensure that the rocks do not shift or fall. I am also inclined to think that some (many? all?) of the waterfalls are created by pumps rather than naturally occurring. We observed workers applying layers of concrete to the rock face, digging, and blasting out the earth to reveal and carve out rock.
I understand that the enhancements begin with what is there naturally and that the vegetation would not be as vibrant and eye-pleasing without irrigation and caretaking. I just was expecting to see more naturally-occurring wonders.
After we finished the trail, we took the shuttle to the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum. The bulk of the museum is filled with Native American artifacts. The collection includes thousands and thousands of arrowheads, grinding stones, farming tools, clothing, shoes, art, and more. There are pieces of great historical significance including the vest worn by Sitting Bull during the Battle of Little Big Horn. The display of craftsmanship by the various tribes is fascinating. The intricate beadwork on the clothing and the various cradleboards are among my favorite pieces.
In addition to the Native American artifacts, there are specimens of extinct animals that were native to the Ozarks. Among them are the giant beaver, giant ground sloth, short-faced bear, and terror bird. The animals were by far, the 4-year-old’s favorite part. The museum does need to update the signage, however, as a few displays have been moved to the Wildlife Galleries at Wonders of Wildlife.
I wasn’t expecting the areas of the museum dedicated to the Civil War and the Hall of Presidents. It was a pleasant surprise! This collection includes Abraham Lincoln’s funeral flag and one of his desks. You will also find quirky exhibits such as locks of hair from Presidents Washington and Lincoln.
The museum is wonderful and well worth a visit if you are in the area. You could spend hours reading about all of the items housed there… if you weren’t pulled along at a more steady rate by children!
Before we left, we made sure to go look at the sinkhole, or Cathedral of Nature, as it is now called. In May 2015, a 70-foot wide sinkhole opened at the top of the golf course. Since that time, excavations have been underway in hopes of finding a cavern system.
Overall, I am glad we went. We had a great time, everything is gorgeous and well done, but I didn’t expect less from a Johnny Morris property. I can’t see us going back to do the cave and nature trail; I would prefer to go to a state park where things are as they naturally occur. However, I could definitely see us making another trip to the museum.