End of the Line
By Jimmy Jacobs
Mention the name Johnny Morris to any angler and the Bass Pro Shops empire he has built comes to mind. Beginning by selling bass lures at a counter in the back of his father’s liquor store, the business now stretches nationwide.
However, there is another side to Johnny Morris, besides being a shrewd businessman. He also is an avid student of history and a committed conservationist. Both of those interested meshed when he founded the Dogwood Canyon Nature Preserve in Lampe, Missouri, deep in the Ozark Mountains.
Covering 10,000 acres, the preserve focuses on natural history, with a healthy dose of active outdoor recreation options. The entrance is through a replica mill with a dam on Dogwood Creek The mill also houses a museum and an eatery, the Mill & Canyon Grill Restaurant.
Photo by Polly Dean.
From there the complex spreads out to paths for hiking, biking and Segway tours past waterfalls, horseback riding trails, tram tours through an elk and bison range and even a wedding chapel. The canyon has a long history of use by Native Americans, including a burial site that contained the oldest human remains ever found in Missouri. Later on, lead and iron mines dotted the canyon’s limestone cliffs.
Great Spirit Falls, site of the ancient burial site. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
When Johnny Morris discovered the area, it contained only an outdated RV park. Once purchased it was turned into a place to promote and protect the canyon’s wildlife and plant life. In connection with that mission, a number of educational programs also are available. At the same time, it offers a chance for people to see and enjoy those, with minimum impact. The developed areas of the preserve take up only a small portion of the entire tract.
Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
But for anglers the focus is on the Dogwood Creek. Sections of that stream and its tributary Little Indian Creek are managed to provide novice anglers both catch-and-release or catch-and-keep introductions to trout fishing. Additionally, the upper stretch of Dogwood offers guided catch-and-release fishing, including shots at trophy-sized trout. Both spin and fly-fishing option are provided.
The catch-and-release guided fishing section of Dogwood Creek. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.
The Dogwood Canyon Nature Preserve is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with entrance and activity fees charged.