If you saw the movie “Swing Vote,” you might have noticed that Kevin Costner’s Bud Johnson was rarely parted from his Bass Pro baseball cap. And it wasn’t just because the character was a laidback, beer-swigging good ole boy. No, the Dances with Wolves actor is a fishing buddy of Johnny Morris, the guy who started Bass Pro. Costner and his band, Modern West, have performed at the flagship store in Springfield, Missouri and there’s a cabin named after him at Morris’s Big Cedar Lodge, a luxury resort in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks.
Sitting on Table Rock Lake, Big Cedar certainly qualifies as a fishing and hunting lodge, an upscale fishing and hunting lodge with cozy Adirondack-style cabins and taxidermy enough to give Teddy Roosevelt pause. But Big Cedar Lodge is much more than that.
Its 800 lushly-forested-acres have natural-fed swimming pools, hiking trails, five-star dining, tennis courts, a golf course, two spas, a cooking school, an about-to-open Natural History Museum (complete with the skeleton of a Woolly Mammoth) and the same kind of attention to detail that inspired Advertising Age to name Bass Pro one of the ten hottest brands in America along with Glee, Droid and Ciroc vodka.
The Kevin Costner cabin, like all the cabins, overlooks Table Rock Lake and has an impressive wood-burning fireplace, hand-crafted furniture, stained glass, exposed beams, a big deck and pictures of the Hollywood star scattered throughout. There are also cabins named for Tony Orlando (not surprisingly, it’s called the Yellow Ribbon cabin), Dale Earnhardt Jr., Porter Wagoner, Ernest Hemingway, former President George H.W. Bush (when his Secret Service agents first called, they were told it was sold out), Waylon Jennings (he and his wife renewed their vows at Big Cedar) and some of the conservation partners that Morris has worked with in the 40 years since he started Bass Pro in the back of his father’s Brown Derby liquor store.
Today, Bass Pro has 57 stores throughout the United States and Canada and, with turnstiles clicking, racks up some 110 million visitors a year, more than Disneyworld, the NFL and NCAA basketball. With live aquariums, waterfalls, fishing and hunting demonstrations and an elaborate Santa’s World that offers kids a free 5×7 photos with the Jolly One (Santas at the mall tend to charge), Bass Pro’s intricately-decorated Outdoor Worlds have become true family destinations.
In 1987, Johnny Morris expanded his brand with Big Cedar Lodge. Originally, he wanted a spot where customers of his Springfield store could test fishing boats. But he became intrigued with the two long-abandoned country resorts on the property, built in the 1920’s by Jude Simmons and Frisco Railroad executive Harry Worman, and decided to restore them. Today, those old wilderness mansions serve as restaurants on the property that he went on to turn into a gorgeous mountain lake resort.
There’s a cookie lady that places fresh gingerbread (shaped like cedar trees) on guests pillows at night and in the summer, families are invited out to Truman Lawn for kickball, pie-eating competitions, seed-spitting contests, wheelbarrow races and a big bonfire complete with S’mores. No wonder, Morris calls Big Cedar Lodge “his little slice of heaven on earth.”
Kevin Costner, Michael Jordan and Vince Vaughn think so, too.
Click here for more on this lodge that was once described as a cross between Disneyland and the summer camp from Dirty Dancing.