For the first half an hour or so, my only consciousness was the sound of my own breathing – in and out in that labored Darth Vadar-ish kind of rhythm. My other senses didn’t take in my surroundings, so concentrated was I on the simple act of breathing in this unnatural environment.
When I had survived the first half an hour or so, I began to relax and take in my surroundings. This indeed was a part of the Show Me State I had never seen before. I was swimming along about 20 feet under the surface of Table Rock Lake in the Missouri Ozarks, taking in the landscape of this region that hasn’t seen the light of day since the 1950s when the Corps of Engineers began flooding this part of southwest Missouri to form Table Rock Lake.
I had tried scuba diving before in some of the world’s most pristine waters – off the coast of Grand Cayman and Belize – but I had not been successful. Admittedly I’m slightly claustrophobic and that’s a problem many people have with scuba diving – the feeling that the water is caving in on you. And then there’s that totally unnatural thing of breathing underwater.
But I’m a Midwestern girl who learned to swim in the Mississippi River and spent much of my life water skiing on Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks. So it just seemed natural that to conquer my fear of scuba diving I would return to Missouri and find success at Table Rock Lake.
In Your Bucket Because…
- You can’t always afford a getaway to exotic destinations.
- You like the idea of diving off-the-beaten-path.
- You can check out Branson Missouri’s entertainment after a good dive.
Table Rock Lake
Located near the entertainment mecca of Branson in southwest Missouri, Table Rock Lake is more than 200 feet deep in some places and averages about 85 degrees in the summer. However, if you go down below the thermocline, about 30 feet, the temperature stays at about 58 degrees and you’ll need a wet suit. Some people disparagingly call diving in Missouri lakes “muck diving,” but sometimes the visibility at Table Rock is as much as 30 feet.
Table Rock’s most popular underwater destination is the Enchanted Forest, about a mile and a half north of the dam. Before the lake was created, this area was covered in massive oak trees that have not decayed despite being covered by water for 60-plus years. Dive about 80 feet down and you can glide between these moss covered trees gently waving with the motion of the lake. It is a truly enchanted part of the underwater world, and one that too few in the diving community can boast they’ve experienced.
- Spring is the best time diving Missouri lakes, before the heavy boat traffic of summer has churned up the silt.
- Mid-week and early morning are also recommended to avoid silt-filled water and to see more fish.
- Branson Regional Airport is less than 15 minutes from Table Rock Lake.
- Two dive shops operate at Table Rock: Indian Point Marina(417-338-2891) near Silver Dollar City and State Park Marina at Table Rock State Park, near the dam (417-334-2628).