Lake of the Ozarks

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Lake of the Ozarks
Aerial panorama of Lake of the Ozarks MO-JDugger.jpg
Aerial panorama of Lake of the Ozarks
Location of the reservoir in Missouri, USA.
Location of the reservoir in Missouri, USA.
Lake of the Ozarks
Location of the reservoir in Missouri, USA.
Location of the reservoir in Missouri, USA.
Lake of the Ozarks
Location Benton, Camden, Miller, and Morgan Counties in Missouri
Coordinates 38°12′09″N 92°37′35″W / 38.20250°N 92.62639°W / 38.20250; -92.62639
Latitude and Longitude:

38°12′09″N 92°37′35″W / 38.20250°N 92.62639°W / 38.20250; -92.62639
Type Reservoir
Primary inflows Grandglaize Creek, Gravois Creek, Niangua River, Osage River
Primary outflows Osage River
Catchment area14,000 sq mi (36,300 km2)
Basin countries United States
Managing agency Ameren Missouri
BuiltAugust 6, 1929 (1929-08-06)
First floodedFebruary 2, 1931 (1931-02-02)
Max. length93 miles (150 km) [1]
Surface area54,000 acres (220 km2) [2]
Max. depth130 ft (40 m) [3]
Water volume1,927,000 acre⋅ft (2.377×109 m3) [1]
Residence time2-4 months
Shore length11,150 miles (1,850 km)
Surface elevation659 ft (201 m)
Settlements Camdenton, Gravois Mills, Lake Ozark, Laurie, Osage Beach, Sunrise Beach, Village of Four Seasons
References [2] [3] [4]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake of the Ozarks is a reservoir created by impounding the Osage River in the northern part of the Ozarks in central Missouri. Parts of three smaller tributaries to the Osage are included in the impoundment: the Niangua River, Grandglaize Creek, and Gravois Creek. The lake has a surface area of 54,000 acres (220 km2) and 1,150 miles (1,850 km) of shoreline. The main channel of the Osage Arm stretches 92 miles (148 km) from one end to the other. The total drainage area is over 14,000 square miles (36,000 km2). The lake's serpentine shape has earned it the nickname "The Missouri Dragon", which has in turn inspired the names of local institutions such as The Magic Dragon Street Meet. [5]


1945 aerial of Lake of the Ozarks, "The Missouri Dragon"

A hydroelectric power plant on the Osage River was first pursued by Kansas City developer Ralph Street in 1912. He put together the initial funding and began building roads, railroads, and infrastructure necessary to begin construction of a dam, with a plan to impound a much smaller lake. In the mid-1920s, Street's funding dried up, and he abandoned the effort. [6]

The lake was created by the construction of the 2,543-foot (775 m) long Bagnell Dam by the Union Electric Company of St. Louis, Missouri. The principal engineering firm was Stone and Webster. Construction began August 8, 1929, and was completed in April 1931; the lake reached spillway elevation on May 20, 1931.

During construction, the lake was referred to as Osage Reservoir or Lake Osage. The Missouri General Assembly officially named it Lake Benton after Senator Thomas Hart Benton. None of the names stuck, as it was popularly referred to by its location at the northern edge of the Ozarks. The electric generating station, however, is still referred to by the utility company as the "Osage Hydroelectric Plant." [7]

While some sources indicate that more than 20 towns, villages and settlements were permanently flooded to create the lake, research indicates that the actual number was closer to eight. Several other settlements had been previously abandoned, were relocated to make way for the lake, or were on high enough ground that the creation of the lake did not affect them. [8]

At the time of construction, Lake of the Ozarks was the largest man-made lake in the United States and one of the largest in the world. It was created to provide hydroelectric power for customers of Union Electric, but it quickly became a significant tourist destination. Most of its shoreline is privately owned, unlike many flood-control lakes in the region that were constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The relatively stable surface elevation has created conditions suitable for private development within a few feet of the shoreline. There are over 70,000 homes along the lake, many of which are vacation homes. The lake is now a major resort area, and more than 5 million people visit annually.[ citation needed]

In 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) renewed the lease for the power plant operated by Ameren Missouri. In the process, FERC determined that numerous homes and structures were encroaching on utility land in violation of federal regulations. According to the Boston Globe, this issue "has triggered panic in the area's lakefront communities and led to a growing battle among regulators, a utility company, land attorneys, and the state's congressional delegation." [9]

In 2012, a sign that imitates the Hollywood Sign was placed that can be seen from westbound US 54. It is located at the US 54 and Route 242 junction.

In 2015, FERC issued an order allowing Ameren Missouri to pursue permits for approximately 215 structures that were termed as "non-conforming." Those were the structures remaining in limbo after Ameren was given approval to redraw the project lines encompassing Lake of the Ozarks. [10]

The Lake of the Ozarks froze over during the February 2021 North American cold wave. [11]


The Lake of the Ozarks is located within the Ozark Mountains with Bagnell Dam lying at an elevation of 659 feet (201 m). [4] [12] It lies in central Missouri on the Salem Plateau of the Ozarks. [13] The lake extends across four Missouri counties, from Benton County in the west through Camden and Morgan counties to Miller County in the east. [14]

The reservoir is impounded at its northeastern end by Bagnell Dam, and the Osage River is both its primary inflow and outflow. [14] Long and winding in shape, the lake consists of the main, 93-mile-long (150 km) Osage River channel as well as several arms, each fed by a different tributary. [1] [14] The southwestern arm is fed by the Niangua and Little Niangua rivers, [15] the southeastern arm by Grandglaize Creek, [16] and the northern arm by several streams including Gravois, Indian, and Little Gravois creeks. [17] Many smaller tributaries also drain into the lake, creating numerous small coves and indentations in its shore. [15] [16] [17] As a result, the lake has approximately 1,150 miles (1,850 km) of shoreline. [2]

U.S. Route 54 runs east–west across the reservoir's southwestern arm and then generally northeast–southwest along its eastern shoreline, crossing the southeastern arm at Osage Beach and crosses the Grand Glaize Bridge. Missouri Route 5 runs generally north–south along the lake's western shoreline, crossing the main channel at Hurricane Deck. Missouri Route 7 runs generally northwest–southeast to the lake's southwest, crossing the southwestern arm. Missouri Route 134 runs southeast from U.S. 54 north of Osage Beach to its southern terminus in Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Route 42 connects to Route 134 and US 54 in Osage Beach. Route 242 connects US 54 to near Village of Four Seasons. In addition, a network of supplemental state routes provides access to various points along the lake shore. [14]

Numerous settlements are located near or on the Lake of the Ozarks. With a population of 4,570, the largest city is Osage Beach which sits where the lake's southeastern arm joins the main channel. The second largest is the city of Camdenton, located a few miles east of the southwestern arm. Lake Ozark lies immediately north of Osage Beach and just south of Bagnell Dam. Other, smaller communities along or near the lake include (from east to west): Kaiser, Lakeside, Linn Creek, Village of Four Seasons, Rocky Mount, Sunrise Beach, Hurricane Deck, Gravois Mills, Laurie, and Lakeview Heights. [14]


The Lake of the Ozarks has a storage capacity of approximately 1,927,000 acre-feet (2.377×109 m3). [1] When filled to that volume, it has a surface elevation of 660 feet (200 m) and occupies a surface area of approximately 54,000 acres (220 km2). [2] [18] The lake rarely varies in surface elevation by more than 5 feet (1.5 m). [18] As it was constructed for power generation, not flood control, the lake has only limited flood control capacity. [1]

Due to its large volume and surface area, various sources identify the Lake of the Ozarks as either the largest reservoir in Missouri or the second-largest after Truman Reservoir. [19] [20] [21]


Bagnell Dam

Fire Department

In November 2018, the Lake Ozark Fire District acquired a $500,000 fireboat. [22]


Bridges on the lake include the following:

Bagnell Dam - Built in 1931

Lake of the Ozarks Community Bridge - Built in 1998 and is a toll bridge

Grand Glaize Bridge - Originally built in 1930. In 1984, a new girder bridge carrying westbound traffic opened. In 1995, a new eastbound girder bridge was built and the original bridge was torn down.

Hurricane Deck Bridge - Built in 1936; replaced in 2013.

Niangua Bridge - Built in 1936; replaced by a girder bridge in 2003.

Niangua Arm US 54 Bridge - Built in 1931; replaced by a girder bridge in 1999.


Bagnell Dam is operated and maintained by Ameren Missouri, the successor of Union Electric, under the authority of a permit issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Ameren Missouri is also responsible for managing both the shoreline and water levels of the lake. All land surrounding the lake that is within the project boundary defined by the FERC is under the company's jurisdiction. Any improvements to the shoreline including docks, seawalls, and other structures require permission from Ameren Missouri prior to construction. [23]

Tourism and recreation

Anderson Hollow Cove, informally known as Party Cove, in 2007.

During the process of land acquisition for the lake during the 1920s, 17,500 acres (71 km2) of land were set aside for a national park along the Grand Glaize Arm of the lake. In 1946, this land was acquired by the State of Missouri for Lake of the Ozarks State Park, the largest State Park in Missouri. Another state park on the shores of the lake is Ha Ha Tonka State Park on the Niangua Arm of the lake.

Lake of the Ozarks State Park is home to Party Cove, a gathering spot that a New York Times writer called the "oldest established permanent floating bacchanal in the country." [24] The Missouri State Water Patrol has estimated that the cove attracts up to 3,000 boats during the Fourth of July weekend. [24]

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic the Lake of the Ozarks gained notoriety when on Memorial Day (May 25, 2020) a large crowd congregated at the lake. [25] [26]

On April 1st 2012, Biologist and Tv Personality Jeremy Wade visited The lake and filmed an episode on the large catfish that could be caught there.


AquaPolooza takes place each July. Attendees gather on rafts and inflatable tubes. Live music is usually played from noon to 5pm as boaters link up their boats to one another.[ citation needed]

At the end of every summer, the Lake of the Ozarks holds an event called "The Shootout". It is the biggest powerboat racing event of the year at the lake and runs over a three-mile course.

On the last Saturday of February of every year, the Lake of the Ozarks holds a Polar bear plunge event. The event is a fundraiser for Special Olympics in Missouri.

In popular media

The TV series Ozark is set in Osage Beach though filmed in the state of Georgia. In November 2017, it was reported that the series helped increase tourism and notoriety of the Lake of the Ozarks, but did not have a significant economic impact. [27] In February 2018, a real life restaurant called "Marty Byrde's", inspired by the series, was opened in Lake Ozark, Missouri, and includes menu items based on the show, including "Ruth's Smoked Wings". [28]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Hydrology". Missouri Department of Conservation. Archived from the original on 2016-01-31. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  2. ^ a b c d Great Osage River Project from the website of the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau
  3. ^ a b "Midwest Diving Locations". Columbus Sea Nags Scuba Diving Club. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  4. ^ a b "Lake of the Ozarks". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  5. ^ "Magic Dragon Street Meet Lake of the Ozarks : Car Show Lake of the Ozarks MO". Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
  6. ^ "Lake of the Ozarks - Lake Ozark, MO". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09.
  7. ^ "Lake of the Ozarks Name".
  8. ^ Gillespie, Michael (2008). "The Myth of the Sunken Townsites". Lone Jack, MO: The Lake Area History Pages!. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  9. ^ Blank, Chris (2011), "Mo. residents upset by order to move lake homes",, retrieved 2011-11-07
  10. ^ "FERC accepts shoreline structures". Lake News Online. 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  11. ^ Bechtold, Nathan. "DOCK ICE: Lake Of The Ozarks Is Freezing Over, Here's How To Protect Your Dock & Boat". Retrieved 2022-03-31.
  12. ^ Lake Ozark, MO, 7.5 Minute Topographic Quadrangle, USGS, 1959 (1981 rev.)
  13. ^ "Physiographic Regions of Missouri [Map]" (PDF). Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2002. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Missouri Highway Map" (PDF). Missouri Department of Transportation. 2013. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  15. ^ a b "General Highway Map - Camden County" (PDF). Missouri Department of Transportation. June 2011. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  16. ^ a b "General Highway Map - Miller County" (PDF). Missouri Department of Transportation. October 2011. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  17. ^ a b "General Highway Map - Morgan County" (PDF). Missouri Department of Transportation. December 2011. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  18. ^ a b "Lake Ozark Guide Curve - 2015". Ameren Missouri. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
  19. ^ Foley, William E.; McCandless, Perry (2001). Missouri Then and Now. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press. p. 37.
  20. ^ Keefer, Greg (2011-08-31). "10 Great Missouri Bass Lakes". Game & Fish. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
  21. ^ "Lakes in Missouri, United States". Lakes Online. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
  22. ^ "Lake Ozark FPD Launches New Fire Boat". KRMS. 2018-11-27. Archived from the original on 2018-11-28. The new boat cost roughly $500,000. The older boat will remain on the water, too. It will be sold to Mid-County Fire Protection District.
  23. ^ "Shoreline Management". Ameren Missouri. Retrieved 2015-12-18.
  24. ^ a b Party Cove: Wild in the Ozarks, a July 2005 article from The New York Times
  25. ^ "Memorial Day weekend crowds at Lake of the Ozarks appear to not be observing social distancing". 24 May 2020.
  26. ^ "Crowd ignores social distancing in Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks - The Washington Post".
  27. ^ Keegan, Harrison (November 23, 2017). "Netflix show 'Ozark' brings notoriety, but not much business to Lake of the Ozarks resort". Springfield News-Leader. Archived from the original on November 17, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  28. ^ Havranek, Andrew (February 18, 2018). "New restaurant inspired by Netflix's "Ozark" to open in Lake Ozark". KY3. Archived from the original on November 17, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.

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