Author Topic: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride  (Read 26914 times)

Junior

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Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« on: January 15, 2010, 02:04:53 PM »
In the White River Region around Branson in the 40's and 50's, Jim Owens was a legend. He started a float trip service catering to visitors who wanted to float along the James and White Rivers for a day, a weekend, even up to a week or two. As a customer, you could fish, snap photos, or lay back and enjoy the scenery. The majority of people taking a trip with Owens' service did it to fish, and the river guides would cook breakfast and supper, with camps being set up on gravel bars on the river. Later on, Jim Owens had several other businesses around Branson. Real estate, a motion picture theater, and so on. Owens became the mayor of Branson. A guy named Paul Henning befriended Owens after taking several float trips. Henning went on to write and produce "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Pettycoat Junction," and "Green Acres." If you catch some of the "Beverly Hillbillies" episodes on TV, you'll notice Paul Henning included references to Jim Owens, Chick Allen, and other Branson area residents. Silver Dollar City honored Owens' when they opened the float trip ride about '68 or '69, and named it for him. The ride allowed families to get in a Jon Boat, and float an Ozark river. I was a "river rat" at the float trip in 1979. I helped load people in and out of boats, and worked the dispatch stand. The float trip is one of the oldest rides at SDC. It was replaced with the American Plunge in 1981. In the line waiting to get on the plunge you can still see some of the old "rock" channels used by the float trip. Currently, the channels are just used to cycle water through the plunge.Some of the old float trip channels were implemented into the American Plunge. Some of the scenes you would view on the float trip included "Echo Rock," (A microphone was hidden and when you hollered out, amplified sound would "echo" back at you.) There was an outhouse on the edge of a low bluff, and when your boat approached the outhouse appeared as if it was going to fall on your boat. There were some hogs slurping out of a moonshine still, and there was a "river gang clubhouse" where the members were fishing and swimming. You passed a river camp, where a river rat had been treed by a bear, an animal haven that had live prairie dogs, goats, or other animals, a swirling whirlpool, and then a dark cave where "ghosts" danced in a hidden underground saloon, and a barrell dump poured a waterall of water along your boat. On the way back around to the dock, a couple of water geysers almost squirted  your boat. It was a gentle, family friendly ride. The theme changed a little bit over the years...at first Jim Owens' "ghost" talked to you about the river, later a woman looked for her hustband and no good friend, and the last few years, the cave had gnomes in it. I've got several pictures of the float trip I hope to scan in the next few days and post on the flickr account, and I'll update this thread when I do so. Tell me your memories of this old favorite ride at SDC.
"Howdy there folks! My name is Junior Dugan, and I'll be drivin' your diving bell!"

Junior

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2010, 01:36:13 PM »
I have added 13 photos of the Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride to my Flickr account. Also you will see diving bell photos and pictures from my days at Hee Haw Theater in Branson. Hope you enjoy the new shots!

                              View the photos here:    http://www.flickr.com/photos/juniordugan   
"Howdy there folks! My name is Junior Dugan, and I'll be drivin' your diving bell!"

sdcforever

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2010, 01:49:12 PM »
Thanks for the photos!  I never got to go on the Float Trip.  I've only heard stories and seen a short video of it on YouTube.  I didn't go to SDC for the first time until around 1986 or 1987.

KBCraig

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2010, 02:06:50 PM »
I always liked the float trip. Even for an adventure-loving kid, it was fun to have a nice relaxing ride.

slow_walker

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2010, 02:07:09 PM »
The outhouse appearing to fall is the one thing I always remembered the most. But now that you've mentioned the pigs drinking moonshine and some of the other things I am able to picture them again.

Junior

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2010, 02:55:42 PM »
Glad you enjoyed the photos. All these years later, I wish I would have taken 10,000 more pictures of those places and people that no longer exist as they did in that period of time. Back in the "old days" you had to take  your film to a pharmacy...three days later it came back to the pharmacy and you picked them up. We thought things had really gotten modern in the early 80s when you went to a one hour photo place. Now, just load those shots from the camera to computer...or phone...and you're done!
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stlphotogal

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2010, 03:00:51 PM »
If recall (and I was young in the early-mid 80's) didn't some of the characters and things remain for a while after it turned into the plunge? Seems I remember some of the things are are talking about while floating through waiting to go down the hill...

Angela

Junior

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2010, 03:48:58 PM »
management decided to use the old float trip channels for the plunge. The water pumps were reversed. the plunge waters flow in the opposite direction that the float trip went. I think the geysers from the float trip that almost sprayed your boat at the stagecoach bridge were used, the barrel dump in the cave was used, and the whirlpool on the other side of the cave. The float trip mill was left alone...but closed so no one could walk through it. The mill was used for a few years as the break room for the plunge work crew. the old, untouched float trip channels are apparently still there, just used today to help cycle water through the ride. the old float trip loading dock is there, used as an overflow area for passengers waiting for the plunge. The atmosphering around the ride was changed when the plunge went in. ghostlike faces were placed in the cave rocks, but I don't think they are still used today. From what I've heard, the cave is just a dark hole. No effects or anything special inside there..correct me if I'm wrong.  By the way, the crew from the diving bell gathered to rehearse in 1981 prior to park opening, and one day we were called over to be human guinea pigs...some of the first people to ride the plunge...while Jack Hershend and other management watched. We rode the thing through many, many times in a row before they would let us off. It was fun, though.
"Howdy there folks! My name is Junior Dugan, and I'll be drivin' your diving bell!"

History Buff

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2010, 04:25:58 PM »
The cave is now a square, concrete tunnel with no special effects.
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Copper

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2010, 04:58:54 PM »
I miss the waterfalls in the cave, a few years ago they had to replace the collapsing cave and decided to go the cheap rout and not fix it to its original glory, what an amazing disappointment. What I don't understand is when they put the lift for the American Plunge why they couldn't have utilized more of the Float Trip channels. I also miss the outhouse, a man would scream "Oh No!" and the door would swing open and water would shoot up from the path ahead and splash you a little as you passed by.

Junior

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2010, 05:46:13 PM »
I never asked anybody, but my guess was that the old float trip cave finally wore out. You confirmed that. The concrete tunnel does not have the same feel to it, does it? Just like the old waterfall in front of Grandfather's Mansion...it's gone, too. WE NEED ANOTHER ANDY MILLER at the park. Maybe we will have to do a nationwide talent search...Oh, wait...Andy was one of a kind...you can't find a replacement for him. Or Miss Mary, either.
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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2010, 01:10:12 PM »
I rode Jim Owen's Float Trip when I first visited in 1969.  Back then the goal was to find Old Joe Clark, who ended up at the end of the ride in Frozen Cave.  It was a fun but slow ride.  I miss it but I do like the American Plunge- which in my opinion gets you the overall wettest of any ride on the park.  I've ridden LROTO and came away almost dry.
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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2010, 08:49:38 AM »
I alway liked the whirlpool with the guys head spinning around. One day I came through and the head was gone. For some reason there was a lot of little colored ball loose in the park that day and a couple were floating in the whirlpool. All I could think to say to my family was "Oh no, he's lost his balls."
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Junior

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2010, 09:50:36 AM »
Ha! :)
"Howdy there folks! My name is Junior Dugan, and I'll be drivin' your diving bell!"

Copper

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Re: Jim Owens' Float Trip Ride
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2010, 10:52:14 PM »
Can I apply for the Andy Miller position??? I would love too, maybe when I graduate school!