Lake of the Ozarks Information:
Lake of the Ozarks, voted #1 Recreational Lake in the Nation
Ha Ha Tonka rated 4th best State Park in the Nation
A 2015 USA Today Ranking
Fun Things to do:
Set your sights on these recreational opportunities. Bicycling, bird watching, horseback riding, fishing, golf, hiking, museums, skiing and boating, swimming, spelunking, sight-seeing, camping and live entertainment; all that and much more is available in the towns and rural areas surrounding Lake of the Ozarks.
BICYCLING - One of the finest bike trails in Missouri is the 16-mile-long Trail of the Four Winds, located off Highway 42 in Lake of the Ozarks State Park. In the spring of 2003 an 8-mile long trail will open in the McCubbins Point area of the park off state Route A. For racers a world-class level BMX track is located in the city park in Lake Ozark. For more information visit a lake area bike shop.
BIRD WATCHING - One of the prime bird watching spots in the Midwest, the hardwood forest surrounding the Lake of the Ozarks provides year-round sanctuary to many species of birds, including the northern cardinal, nuthatch, tufted titmouse, gold finch and eastern bluebird. In the warm months the ruby-throated hummingbird, baltimore oriole and American robin brighten backyards. Many types of waterfowl including ducks, geese, pelicans, egrets and herons fish the coves and inlets along the shore. In the late fall and winter American bald eagles can be seen soaring high above the Osage River and Bagnell Dam, dropping to the water to grab their meal. To learn more about the winged wildlife at the lake call the Missouri Department of Conservation.
CAMPING - Camping at Lake of the Ozarks is an enjoyable experience. From full hookups for motor homes to primitive tent sites almost any type of camping you are looking for can be found in the three county area. List of Campgrounds
FAMILY FUN - Whether its zooming down a go kart track or scoring a hole in one playing miniature golf, the lake has a variety of activities for kids of all ages. With one of the largest indoor activity centers, Miner Mike's boasts a three-story maze large enough for parents and their children, a roller coaster, ferris wheel, bumper cars and an array of video games. The lake area has more than five go-kart tracks, eight miniature golf courses, theme parks and shopping centers. List of Family Attractions.
FISHING - Famous for its world-class fishing, Lake of the Ozarks is the premier fishing spot in Mid-Missouri and is home to some of the Midwest's most prestigious fishing tournaments. Stocked with bass, catfish, crappie, perch, and many more species, there is a fishing spot for every type of angler, from novice to experienced. Several state records come from Lake of the Ozarks, and there are many chances to catch your trophy.
GOLF -The lake area has several top-rated public and private courses. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, and Bruce Devlin are just some of the architects that have lent their talent to the Lake area golf scene. No matter the skill level, there is a course suited for your game. The area has also been recognized by national publications for its women-friendly courses. Factor in ammenities such as swimming, tennis, stay-and-play packages, conference facilities, and much more, and you can see why the Lake of the Ozarks is justifiably considered one of the premier golfing destinations in the country. Golfing Destinations.
HIKING - If communing with nature as you sit alongside an isolated forest pool or laying on your back in a field of meadow grass is your idea of a good time, then the lake area is for you. Some of the most spectacular scenery in the Ozarks can be viewed from the hiking trails that meander through Lake of the Ozarks and Ha Ha Tonka state parks. Covering a combined area of more than 20,000 acres, the two parks are ranked among the top recreation facilities in Missouri. Hiking the trails is an activity that can be enjoyed by every member of the family. From an easy stroll along an asphalt path to a strenuous climb up a steep hillside, hiking in the lake area's two state parks is an experience not to be missed. Ozark Hiking Trails.
HORSEBACK RIDING - Horseback riding at the lake gives individuals a chance to see the magnificent Mid-Missouri Ozarks the way nature intended; up close and personal. Ozark Homestead staff matches the horse with the experience of the rider. The stable is a family operation with experienced staff and beautiful, well-mannered animals. Tan-Tar-A Resort on state Route KK in Osage Beach also offers horseback riding for both guests of the resort and the general public or visit Broken Gait Trail Rides to learn more about their trail rides. As you can see, if you like to ride horses, Lake of the Ozarks it the place to do it!
MUSEUMS - Before there was a 90-mile long lake, the Mid-Missouri Ozarks was home to native Americans, hardy mountain men, farmers and loggers. To learn more about these early Ozarkians and how life changed when Union Electric decided to put a dam across the Osage River, visit the Miller, Morgan, and Camden county museums.
LOCAL FLAVOR - The lake is one of the most visited vacation spots in Missouri and the country, especially during the summer season. But vacationers are often encouraged to rub elbows with the local residents at the numerous festivals they hold year 'round. With a variety of agriculture shows, apple, mushroom and peach festivals and summer, fall and winter boat holiday and benefit parades, the visitor can indulge of the delights of the season and taste some local flavor. To get a complete list of local festivals, events and activities visit our Events Calendar.
SHOPPING - No vacationer can leave the lake without a souvenir. With more than 200 stores, the shopper is in for a treat. Including a 100 plus store outlet mall, the lake has a variety of thrift shops, swimwear, gift, antique, and art galleries. Osage Beach Outlet Mall. A historic site itself, the Bagnell Dam Strip also offers an exciting trip for the whole family, as well as ample places to shop, some which have been at the lake more than 50 years. Whether it be a new swimming suit, a mountain man statue, an antique collectible or a Party Cove T-shirt, the lake is the place to shop.
SIGHT-SEEING - Some of the most beautiful scenery in the Midwest is right here at Lake of the Ozarks. One drive that proves the point is state Route D west of Camdenton. D-road takes you though Ha Ha Tonka State Park and eventually to Tunnel-Dam Mountain Road, unique in that deep underground a natural tunnel acts as a channel for water from Lake Niangua to flow over a hydroelectric dam, generating energy for Show Me Electric. Other scenic drives include all roads through Lake of the Ozarks State Park, state Route A off Highway 54 in Linn Creek, state Route J from Highway 54, west of Camdenton, to Highway 7 west of Greenview and just about any other asphalt road in Camden, Miller and Morgan counties.
SPELUNKING - There are several caves in the lake area that have tours. The river cave in Ha Ha Tonka State Park is only open at certain times of the year, but the guided tour is quite exciting. Bridal Cave north of Camdenton is world famous for its beautiful natural formation. The cave is the frequent site of weddings and is open year round. Lake of the Ozarks State Park also has a cave that is open year round, nestled in a valley off state Route A. The cave is unique in that it is home to a number of animal and fish species that are found in few other places.
Missouri is truly the cave state, with 5,550 registered and mapped "wild" caves. Camden, Miller and Morgan counties, which surround the Lake of the Ozarks, are home to 300 of these wild caves.
Show caves are wild caves that have been "tamed" through tremendous work and expense. Paved walkways, bridges and hand rails have been constructed, and lights have been installed for the convenience of viewing nature¹s underground beauty with little effort and very safely. No special clothing or equipment is necessary.
Want-to-be spelunkers can experience geology, hydrology and anthropology in these underground classrooms. One of the best things about visiting a cave is that no matter what the weather or season, the temperature is approximately 50-60 degrees year-round, varying slightly with each cave: warm in the winter, cool in the summer.
The Lake area is blessed with three show caves (out of Missouri's 22) and is one of the only tourist destinations in the United States with three show caves within 30 miles of each other.
Bridal Cave, just north of Camdenton, off Hwy. 5 on Lake Road 5-88, can also be reached by water on the 10.5 mile marker on the Big Niangua Arm of the Lake. It was formed by the Ozark upheaval when the Ozark Mountains were formed 42-46 million years ago and is adorned with massive columns, stalactites, stalagmites and draperies from the start to beyond the end of the tour at the sparkling crystal clear Spirit Lake. Bridal Cave, in keeping with the tradition of the Indian legend has hosted over 1325 weddings in the stalactite adorned Bridal Chapel.
Jacob's Cave, north Hwy. 5 on State Rd. TT, north of Gravois Mills, is the largest cave in the Lake area, a "walk through" cave and completely accessible to persons with disabilities. Jacob's Cave is famous for its depth illusion, reflective pools, ceiling sponge-work, prehistoric bones (Mastadon, bear, and Peccary), and the world's largest Geode. On the mile-long tour, you will see every type of cave formation imaginable, from millions of soda straws, massive stalactites and columns, to delicate helectites. Evidence of six ice ages and 3 earthquakes can be seen.
Ozark Caverns is a state owned cave, located off A Road. Ozark Caverns is famous for its Angels Shower, a treat for any cave enthusiast. Great care is taken not to disturb anything of nature. The cave stream exits the mouth of the cave and forms a fin in front of the cave (fresh water swamp) too shallow for fish, but just right for a vast array of exotic plant and animal life native to this area. It is also a "walk through" and ADA accessible.
SWIMMING - Of course, nothing beats a dip in the lake, whether at a public beach or a private resort. Lake of the Ozarks State Park has two public beaches; Public Beach No. 1, located off Highway 42 in Miller County, and Public Beach No. 2, located off Highway 54 in Osage Beach. Both beaches are roped off for safety and are professionally maintained. However, if swimming in a pool is what you prefer, try the city of Camdenton's public pool located in the city park off north Highway 5 or the Westlake Aquatic Center in Laurie. And don't forget to visit Big Surf water park at Highway 54 and state route Y between Osage Beach and Camdenton.
WATER SPORTS - Famous around the world as one the best destinations anywhere for boating, water skiing, parasailing or piloting a personal watercraft, nearly any water-related activity that can be dreamed of is available in abundance at Lake of the Ozarks. New to the sport? Several professoinally trained lessons are available in everything from water safety to water skiing. With a shoreline longer than the entire coast of California, Lake of the Ozarks is a water enthusiast's dream come true.
Ha Ha Tonka is best known as Missouri's premiere showcase of karst geology, and it is unique in the quality and number of its remakable geological features. Among those features are a natural bridge that is 70 feet wide, 60 feet long and reaches more than 100 feet in the air; a natural sink basin known as Whispering Dell is 150 feet deep with two caves both of which were used as hide-outs by criminals in the early 1800s; and Ha Ha Tonka Spring.
The spring is Missouri's ninth largest, discharging 48 million gallons of water daily. It actually bubbles from the mouth of an ancient cave which is all that remains from the collapse of underground caverns in early geological times.
One of the park's biggest attractions is the ruins of a castle that was the dream of Kansas City businessman Robert M. Snyder. Snyder first visited the area in 1903, and was so impressed by its beauty, he purchased 5,000 acres then set out to build a retreat for himself and his family. Construction on the project started in 1905, but Snyder was killed in an automobile accident just a year later. Snyder's son eventually finished construction of the European-style castle with its three stories and a center atrium rising all the way to a skylight in the roof. Along with the castle Snyder also built a 80-foot high water tower, greenhouses and a carriage house.
The family used the retreat for several years and then leased it as a hotel. In 1942 the castle and carraige house burned when sparks from one of the chimneys ignited the roof. In 1976 vandals burned the water tower. Ha Ha Tonka also has one of the state best examples of savanna landscape. A savanna is a landscape which is neither prairie nor woods, but an area where prairie grasses and trees grow in harmony. More than 400 species of plants can be found in the park with wildflower displays throughout the growing season.
The park is filled with natural trails, picnic areas, a visitor's center, playgrounds and is fully handicapped accessible. Ha Ha Tonka is one of Lake of the Ozarks most beautiful recreation areas. Be sure to bring your camera. To visit the park take Highway 54 west out of Camdenton, turn left on Lake Road 54-74, and left again on state Route D.
Old St. Patrick's Church
Until July 20, 1952 when the congregation moved to the Shrine, the little church was the scene of regular services. But only four years later, the building had already undergone so much neglect that it was on the verge of destruction. Since then, numerous repairs have taken place. In 1979, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites, but in time neglect set in again, and by 1997, the deterioration of the building had become a cause for serious alarm.
Fortunately, the Knights of Columbus, Mary, Mother of the Church Council 1038, agreed to take on the project of renovating the historic building. In recognition of their work on restoring the church, the Knights have since received the International Service Program Church Activities Award. "I don't think they really knew what they were getting into," Rose Vanderbeck said, speaking from her office at the Shrine of St. Patrick's. They thought they just needed to make a few repairs, but once they started removing the old plaster-which was at that point literally falling from the ceiling-they discovered that there was 12-inch crown molding underneath it. The Knights also uncovered the church's original stenciling hidden under the old plaster. "That was another surprise," Vanderbeck said. "It seemed like every time they got one project done, another one appeared that needed attention. The whole program ended up taking two and a half years. More than 30 individuals were involved, and altogether, they logged in more than 1,600 hours of volunteer time."
Before they had completed their renovation work, the Knights had a lengthy list of accomplishments to report. These volunteers stripped and refinished pews, and re-plastered walls. On the new walls, they recreated the original ornate stencil designs. They also recreated the design in the crown molding. And they-framed, glazed, caulked, and sealed windows. "While working inside, they discovered that the altar had been painted over and fixed so many times that it was almost unrecognizable," Vanderbeck said. "Once they began to work on it, they discovered the beauty underneath." The altar was originally part of the chapel of St. Mary's Hospital in Sedalia, but it was moved to the church in the 1930s. "As far as we know, this is the oldest church in operation in Morgan County,î Vanderbeck said. ìAnd we understand that it is also the oldest stone church in the lake area."
Laurie's Catholic community was well established by the mid-1800s. It was founded by Father Charles de la Croix, who had converted a number of Osage Indians to the Catholic faith. By 1860, the community also included a large group of Irish immigrants, who had fled famine and persecution to seek a better fortune in America. Among them was Patrick Johnson In 1863, Johnson donated 3.38 acres of his land for the church and the cemetery. Work on the building began in 1868, and was carried out by several area families. They quarried stone on the Johnson farm and moved it to the site of the church. They also made oaken shingles for the roof. The church's floor was packed earth, and heat was provided by a pot-belly stove. For furnishings, the builders made puncheon seats by splitting logs in half and adding sturdy pegs to them for bench legs. These rough-hewn pews were in service until 1907, when St. James Church in Kansas City provided new pews. This seating was shipped from the Kansas City to Eldon on the Rock Island Line. In Eldon, the pews were loaded onto hay wagons and hauled by mule to Laurie.
The dirt floor was deemed serviceable until 1883, when the church was to be dedicated by Father Cosmos Sierberger. For that special occasion, the congregation laid a temporary floor-which was not fully replaced until 1929, when it became time to prepare for the arrival of the new altar from Sedalia.
Many sacred items-such as the statute of the Sacred Heart-now on display in the church have been provided by people who are descendants of the church's founders. Other furnishings and statutes have been contributed by the Diocese of Jefferson City and other churches. The whereabouts of the original statutes and furnishings are unknown, but it is assumed that people took them as souvenirs when the church stopped holding services in 1952. "We are very proud of this church," Vanderbeck said. "Since being renovated, it has already been the scene of several masses, weddings, baptisms, and funerals, and we are pleased to be able to share this wonderful building with the lake community.
"I've told so many lies about it I sometimes wonder just what the truth is," said Fred Moore who has lived on the "cuptree" land for more than 75 years. Moore lastest tale is that the tree got started one day when he and his wife were sitting in the yard and someone brought over some cups and saucers. "One thing led to lead to another and soon the old lady and I were fighting," Moore said. "Pretty soon she started throwing the darn things at me. The cups I caught, I nailed to the tree. The ones I missed fell to the ground and broke." It's hard to tell just how much of the story is true and how much is made up as he's tellingit, but no matter how the thing got started, the first cup was nailed to the tree more than 30 years ago. The tree is so well known around the lake that it's become a landmark used by neighbors to give directions to strangers. As in, "go down this road until you see a tree with a bunch of coffee cups hanging on it, then turn....."
The tree is about five-and-a-half miles down Lake Road 135-3 near the Morgan and Camden County line. It is listed on maps of the lake area and visitors frequently stop by Moore's house to ask how it got started. And quite of few of them bring along their own cups to add to the tree. The black oak on which the cups hangs on used to be a beautiful shade tree, buts its no longer in good shape. It leans to the side as if its about to topple over and its only about ten feet tall.
Moore blames the tree's demise on his sister-in-law. "She used copper nails to hang some cups on it and she killed it dead as a mackerel," Moore said. But Moore doesn't plan to stop the tradition of the cup tree when the old oak finally does give-up-the-ghost. He's already staked out a certain wild cherry he thinks will be the perfect relative to inherit the cups and he plans to keep the cup tradition going as long as people are interested.
There's another spot on Moore's land that's beginning to gain nearly as much fame as the cup tree. Moore's newest tourist draw is the shoe fence.
At a dumpsite just down the road from Moore's house there is a spot where folks have started hanging shoes on a fence. But unlike the origin of the cup tree, Moore is a little clearer about how the shoe tradition started. "There's a saying around here that during deer season that anybody who's caught poaching will be shot and the only thing left to remember them by will be their shoes," he said.
The lake area is full of these kinds of sights and opportunities just waiting to be seen and enjoyed ñ one of which is the famous, remarkable structures, the swinging bridges. To get there, turn on Highway 42 at the stoplight on Highway 54 at Carlís Market in Osage Beach, and go to Brumley. The swinging bridges are located on the gravel road on the right. The larger bridge was built in 1930 to provide a way to cross the Glaize arm of the soon to be created Lake of the Ozarks. This is one of the most photographed spots in the area.
The smaller swing bridge is located about a quarter of a mile from the large one. It is not as impressive, but adds to the charm of the area. These bridges made entirely of cable and wood floors are a sight to behold and experience. The bridges are both on- land bridges, so be careful of other traffic when attempting to cross. Listen to the clap-clap- clap sound as your vehicle traverses the wood floor. There are picnic sights for your use and convenience. This is one of those cool, quiet places you want to bottle up and remember when things get out of control in your mind. Itës the kind of place that poems are written about. Watch for eagles, herons, ducks, geese, kingfishers, and other water seeking birds in the area.
Willmore was designed by the architectural firm of La Baume and Klein. Completed in 1930 the lodge was used as an entertainment center by Union Electric during the construction of Bagnell Dam. At the time it was built, Willmore Lodge served as headquarters for the utility company's personnel in charge of building the dam and lake.
The dam project was such a huge undertaking it destroyed or displaced five towns and eventually created a lake with a shoreline rivaling Lake Michigan's in length. The dam cost $30 million to build and was the largest and last major dam built entirely of private funds in the nation. The construction of the dam and lake gave such a boom to mid-Missouri's economy that the area was one of only a few nationwide that was only minimumly impacted when the stock market crashed in 1929.
Construction of the dam employed 20,000 people and took two years. The lake has 1100 miles of shoreline and is over 90 miles in length from Bagnell to Truman Dams.
Although the area was sparsely populated before Bagnell Dam was built there are now nearly 100,000 private boat docks on Lake of the Ozarks and in an average summer the area hosts over 5 million tourists. On the three most popular weekends, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, the Missouri Water Patrol estimates that as many as 75,000 boats use the lake each day. Built by the same construction firm that built Bagnell Dam, the design for Willmore Lodge is in the Adirondack style of architecture popular in upstate New York in the early part of the 20th century.
The lodge is complete with a kitchen, five guest rooms with private baths, a main two-story living room, servant's quarters and an executive suite. The guest rooms were named after the towns displaced or destroyed by the construction of Bagnell Dam. The names were: Linn Creek, Zebra, Passover, Arnolds Mill and Nonesuch.
The name Willmore Lodge comes from the building second owner, Cyrus Willmore who purchased it from Union Electric in 1945 to use as his personal residence. In 1969 Harold Kopler bought the building and surrounding land from Willmore's estate and in 1996, Union Electric re-purchased the building and grounds.
Today the building houses the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, a museum dedicated to the building of Bagnell Dam and Lake of the Ozarks and is frequently used as a cultural center by the lake area community.
Thong Trees at Lake of the Ozarks
Early Native Americans marked trails with trees, bent to grow in an unusual fashion. Called thong trees, they are foundthroughout the Lake of the Ozarks area and were created to mark trails, springs, herbs used for medicinal purposes, salt supplies, and caves, etc...
Old-timers sometimes referred to the trees as "water trees" because they pointed to a spring or a river or 'buffalo trees" because the Native American women would air their buffalo hides over the bent trees. One of these thong trees can be viewed easily from the road. It is located in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park on Hwy 42. Follow Hwy 134 (off Hwy 42) to the Trail Information Center Cabin in the Park. Turn right onto Whispering Oaks Road (at the Trail Information Center). Travel 1.4 miles. The thong tree is on the left side of the road.
< size="5" face="Century Schoolbook">Here are some Links to information on the Lake of the Ozarks Area