Lake of the Ozarks
The enormous man-made Lake of the Ozarks in Central Missouri is a water sports and anglers' playground amidst a diversely developed shoreline featuring interesting towns, local restaurants, cultural and historic sites and residential "lakefront communities" serving year-round residents and second-homers.
Originally inhabited by the "Children of the Middle Waters," now referred to as the Osage Indians, this land has morphed considerably over many hundreds of years. The valley that once provided sustenance for the Osage along the Osage River was permanently altered with the creation of Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks. Now a recreation haven for fun seekers from Kansas City and St. Louis, MO—who frequent the Lake with a hallowed fervor—the lake area invites shoppers, diners and vacationers to its year-round activities and attractions.
The idea to dam the Osage River dates back to 1912 when building the first hydroelectric dam in Missouri was initiated by Ralph Street, a Kansas City business man. Because of financial difficulties, Street was unable to sustain this ambitious project; his efforts came to an end in 1926. The project was resurrected within the year, however, by Union Electric and Stone & Weber Engineering Company (Boston)—the dam's engineer and builder. On August 26, 1929, construction of Bagnell Dam was initiated and proceeded relatively quickly. Lake of the Ozarks began to fill February 2, 1931. Thirty-million dollars later, by spring of 1932, the reservoir would reach its full capacity.
As one regional history emerged, another was submerged. Tourists today can purchase maps of bygone places including entire towns, cemeteries, mines, and bridges—with picturesque names like Porter Mill Bend, Hurricane Deck, Old Linn Creek, Irontown, and Racetrack Hollow—that were flooded out of existence. Boaters can follow well-placed mile markers and "find these spots" for themselves.
Today Lake of the Ozarks is 90 miles long from Bagnell Dam to Truman Dam with over 1,200 miles of shoreline and 57,000 acres of water. The Lake floats boats of every stripe and ilk including bass, pontoon and ski boats. Naturally week days are less crowded and the waters are easier to navigate. Fans enjoy skiing, wake boarding, fishing, birding and sightseeing; the fall is a favorite time to take in the Lake's magnificent autumn splendors.
Fishermen go after Largemouth Bass, Crappie, White Bass, Stripers and Catfish with abandon. In fact, those "in the know" manage to catch fish all year long. Families are drawn to the area because of its beauty, friendly people and varied entertainment offerings. If you can't find fun at Lake of the Ozarks, you aren't looking very hard. There are 10 or more miniature golf courses, several go cart tracks, large arcades, a seasonal water park, State Park marinas with boat rentals and swim beaches, and family fun parks.
Women are lured to the State's largest outlet mall, Factory Outlet Village, and the area's unique specialty malls, legendary antique shops and one-of-a-kind retailers and galleries featuring local artisans and crafts. It's easy to see how Bass Pro Shops got their nationwide "footing" in nearby Springfield, MO after becoming one Missouri's most popular retail destinations.
The Lake boasts over 150 restaurants—from fine dining fare to burger joints. Bagnell Dam is a popular place for summertime congregations of families and teenagers with its amusement park atmosphere and eateries. Serious golfers enjoy the area, too. There are at least 15 challenging courses around the Lake including the first Jack Nicklaus course in the state.
Before visiting, tourists should check with local sources for specific weather and lake conditions. Fishing permits and boating licenses are mandatory and easy to obtain. Fuel, groceries and sundries are readily available all around the Lake; guests are advised to wear sun screen and bug repelant in summer months and prepare in advance for weather that can change quickly during any season.
Lake of the Ozarks Visitors Center
823 Ozarks Caverns Road
Camdenton, MO 65020