In the early days of Branson tourism, one of the prime attractions were the float trips offered by the legendary Jim Owens. Though these float trips were brought to an end with the damming of the White River to create Table Rock Lake, Jim Owens found other ways to make a name for himself in Branson. He opened the Owens theatre in downtown Branson, which became popular with many famous movie stars of the time. Eventually he even became Branson’s mayor.
In 1969, Silver Dollar City honored Jim Owen by recreating his float trip experience as one of the city’s first major ride attractions. SDC’s version of the float trip involved a long narrow channel similar to today’s flume rides on which elongated flat boats with several rows of bench seats slowly traversed.
One of our resident SDC historians who goes by the handle “Junior” on our forums has summed up some of the ride experience for us:
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 barrel dump poured a waterfall 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 husband and no good friend, and the last few years, the cave had gnomes in it.
Jim Owens Float Trip was replaced with The Great American Plunge, an Arrow log flume, in 1981. However, much of the original float trip ride was either re-used for the plunge, or left in place. The tunnel and pre-lift portion of the plunge are original from Jim Owens’, and the rest of the old float channel can be easily observed from Wildfire’s overflow queue line and the path leading up to it.
Tell us your memories of the ride here on our forums