The Ozarks became a tourist attraction following the 1907 publication of Harold Bell Wright’s The Shepherd of the Hills, a story about love, hardship, conflict and events that actually took place. In 1941 it was made into a movie starring John Wayne. In this performance, The Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama has wowed audiences since 1960, with many generations of local families taking part in the play based on the book.
The mystery/love drama unfolds on a football-field-size dirt stage with more than 90 cast members, 20 horses and mules, a flock of sheep, a fire, a shootout, a hoedown, a 1908 DeWitt automobile and comedy. But you’ll want to arrive 45 minutes early for the the pre-show, which offers guests the chance to visit with the cast and little ones to take part in a gunnie-sack race or get close and personal with animals used in the show. During intermission, spectators are even encouraged to join in a square dance.
But there are many other attractions here besides the theater, making it a good destination for families. During the day, the grounds are open for homestead tours of Old Matt’s Cabin (the original home of the main characters of the book, built in 1884 and on the National Historic Registry), a trip up Inspiration Tower for fine views of the Ozarks and the Vigilante ZipRider that carries riders more than half a mile from the top of the tower (note: tower currently closed for renovation; check the website), and, in summer, horseback trail rides and off-roach ATV adventures.