The ABCs of Dogwood Canyon

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Dogwood canyon has 14 waterfalls.
Dogwood canyon has 14 waterfalls.

Dogwood Canyon is a paradise of wilderness beauty. Approximately 18 miles from Big Cedar Lodge on Missouri state Highway 86 in Lampe, you can visit this invigorating nature preserve for an afternoon adventure. If traveling with a group, maximize your time by splitting up for lunch or biking through the canyon, while the rest of your group may want to take the two-hour wildlife tram tour.

By car, Lampe is 3.5 hours from Tulsa, 5 hours from Oklahoma City.

Activities

What you can do at Dogwood Canyon is as varied as at any outdoor destination: fly fishing, wilderness chapel weddings, hiking, biking, a wildlife tram tour, Segway rides, horseback riding, carriage rides and private Jeep tours. Admission to the nature park is $10 for adults, $5 for children. Most activities are $15 an hour for adults and $10 for children, with stable and Segway prices subject to change. Private Jeep tours are $150-$200, with a three-person maximum.

While it’s beneficial to recharge on excursions, it is especially fulfilling to enjoy this canyon in the middle of a busy school semester. Imagine how striking the dogwood trees are in the spring bloom. Spring is a great time to bond with family after winter hibernation. If you go in autumn, the seasonal decorations of pumpkins and gourds amid holiday lights and trees create a perfect combination of excitement. The weather is nice enough to do a tram or bike ride and enjoy a hot cocoa to warm up. The canyon is especially impressive with all the hues that the seasons reveal, so be sure to take a camera.

Wildlife Tram Tour

The tram has blankets for every passenger, but bundle up with caps and layers on a brisk day. Enthusiastic guides share much information about the flora and fauna of this Ozarkian landscape. There’s even a unique animal called an amphiuma, an aquatic salamander.

Passengers learn Osage history and see evidence of the tribe’s influence. You can occasionally get off the tram to feed rainbow trout. The tram drives slowly through the vistas of 14 waterfalls, a watercress patch, hand-built bridges, ancient burial caves and blue-green pools of water.

Dogwood Canyon covers 10,000 mesmerizing acres of craggy ravines, streams, exquisite dogwoods and evergreens, all of which invite you to the trails of tranquility as you ascend the summit. Crossing into Arkansas takes you to the high meadows and pastures of wildlife, the climax of this adventure. You are greeted by sweet white-tailed deer. Next, you are approached by bison, elk and longhorn cattle – right up to your tram – as the guide sprinkles food to attract wildlife.

You see bison skipping, elk locking antlers in a tussle and bald eagles roosting in treetops. A personal favorite memory is realizing that you’re never too old to be entertained by the antics of wild animals. It’s good for the soul to enjoy the tram ride from an innocently curious perspective. The interaction and mischief of animals this close to your face is worth the price of admission alone ($28 for adults, $19 for children).

The drive down the summit reveals unique fish and amphiuma as people fly-fish, drive Segways or bike through the canyon trail.

Education Center, Grist Mill and Restaurant

At the entrance, there is a treehouse built by the TV show TreeHouse Masters and an impressive Education Center and Amphitheater. Look through microscopes and aquariums of wildlife as you drink hot beverages from the general store.

A reclaimed grist mill and general store are charming attractions of this Indian Creek haven. The educational natural history lobby leads you to the gorgeous restaurant.

Dogwood Canyon is so magically serene that you’ll be anxious to return.

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