If you like Native American art, the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum is a must see. It contains an amazing collection of ancient, historic and modern tribal art, beautifully arranged like the gems they are. You’ll see arrowheads thousands of years old, pottery from about 1450 to 1650, intricate beadwork decorating dresses, moccasins bags and other pieces of clothing, headdresses, pipes, craddle boards, Geronimo’s bow, Sitting Bull’s war bonnet worn during battle against General Custer, war shirts that had to be earned in battle, and contemporary paintings and sculpture. A highlight for me were the portraits taken by Edward S. Curtis and Rinehart-Marsden at the Omaha Indian Congress in 1898.
The museum also covers the Ozark’s natural history, with impressive dioramas and displays that bring the prehistoric “Hell Pig,” “Terror Bird” to life. Founder Johnny Morris (who owns Bass Pro Shops and grew up in nearby Springfield) commissioned the same design team who created exhibits at the Chicago Field Museum, making it top notch for its displays of the skeletal remains of a woolly mammoth, saber tooth tiger, prehistoric cave bears and other interesting artifacts from the past.
There are also displays relating to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Annie Oakley, cowboy culture, the Civil War and President Lincoln, though what these have to do with ancient Ozarks natural history is a mystery to me.
Plan on at least 90 minutes here, longer if you also want to take in Top of the Rock’s other destinations. You can drive an electric cart on the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail (a combination ticket to both is available), have a drink in the Buffalo Bar, eat lunch in Arnie’s Barn or even get in a round of golf.