The Lake of the Ozarks is an awesome place to shop, boat and golf. But you don’t need us to tell you that. You’ve hit the hot spots and now could use some ideas on how to see less publicized sides of the Lake. We’ve put together some suggestions to help you experience the Lake as never before — by water, road, trail and air.
See the Lake …
Even people who have lived at the Lake for years are amazed at how it looks from the air.
“We’ll take real estate agents up who have worked at the Lake for 20 years and driven all the back roads, and they’ll still get lost,” says Corey Leuwerke, an owner of AirLake Aviation, which offers 30-minute scenic flights over the Lake.
What throws people is how close some points actually are that are miles apart by boat or highway. For example, mile marker 10 and mile marker 38 are just across a strip of land from each other.
Sightseers can customize their flight route at AirLake Aviation for no extra charge, so long as the tour stays within 30 minutes. That allows people who have homes at the Lake or favorite vacation spots to see those places from the air and take photos. The “regular” tour for those who have no special requests includes flying over Bagnell Dam, Ha Ha Tonka and Party Cove.
“No matter how you feel about it,” Leuwerke says about Party Cove, “seeing 3,000 boats is a nice spectacle from the air.”
A 30-minute tour costs $99, plus tax, for two. A third person can be added for an extra $20 (children 2 and younger who sit on a lap are free). Make reservations at least a day in advance by calling 1-888-759-2311 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Camdenton Chamber of Commerce has mapped out two scenic drives to help visitors get off the beaten path. Online brochures of both drives are available under the “Visitor Information” tab on the chamber’s website, www.camdentonchamber.com. Sights include old country churches, a historic 400-foot-long swinging bridge and beautiful Ozarks vistas.
The following route is from the end of Drive No. 1:
From Camdenton, drive about 10 miles to State Road U. Turn left onto U and then take another immediate right as U forks. The road turns to gravel. The brochure describes the next 6 miles as “some of the most bewitching scenery in the Ozarks” and encourages sightseers to notice “how the topography and vegetation change dramatically as you drive from hill country to river bottom.” Keep hanging to the left until you reach Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, and then follow the fork in the road to the right and south. (Please note this section of road does not appear on Google maps except on “satellite” view.) About a half-mile later, turn left onto D-187 to cross the Big Niangua River on a low-water bridge. This is good place to pull off the road and spread out a picnic blanket. It’s also a fine place to fish and swim.
Back on the road, continue on D-187 to reach an Ozark “mountaintop” view of Lake Niangua. Stick to the left and the road becomes Tunnel Dam Road, so named because water from the lake flows through a tunnel under the “mountain” to generate electricity (find details and history about Tunnel Dam at www.shomepower.com/node/16). Tunnel Dam Road goes through “a rather remote, rural area” where Osage Indians once lived and eventually runs into the paved State Road D. Turn left on D to drive into Ha Ha Tonka State Park. To return to Camdenton, follow D to U.S. 54 and turn right.
Driven straight through, this loop takes about an hour. Allow more time for picnicking, stopping for photos and sightseeing in Ha Ha Tonka.
The Lake of the Ozarks offers numerous trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Check out descriptions of Lake of the Ozarks State Park trails at www.mostateparks.com/lakeozark/traildesc.htm and of Ha Ha Tonka State Park trails at www.mostateparks.com/hahatonka/trails.htm.
The longest trail at the Lake is the 16.5-mile-long Trail of Four Winds, open to hikers, bikers and horseback riders. It covers some of the most scenic — and challenging — landscapes in the park. The trailhead is on State Highway 134, off State Highway 42, 1.2 miles past the trail information center. The trail winds through forest and open grasslands and provides stunning Lake views. Bring some powerful insect repellent and fortitude for this rugged trail.
How silly would it be to come to the Lake and miss the main attraction? If you don’t have a boat — or want to try out something different — numerous businesses at the Lake can set you up. When renting a boat or personal watercraft, it’s a good idea to make reservations a few days in advance, and be sure to pick a rental place that’s close to where you want to be on the Lake. Find a list of boat and PWC rental businesses at the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau website, www.funlake.com.
Perhaps you’ve boated all over the Lake and want to try a new adventure. How about a guided fishing tour? The Lake is loaded with several species of bass and catfish, black and white crappie, paddlefish, walleye and bluegill. It’s hard to beat a fishing trip for making memories — especially when there’s someone along who can put you in the right spot with the right gear to catch some action. The same website, www.funlake.com, can hook you up with a list of professional fishing guides.
You can also get a different feel for the Lake aboard a scenic dinner cruise. Couples seeking luxury can find it aboard Celebration Cruises, which offers lunch and dinner cruises on a temperature-controlled motor yacht (www.cruiselake.com); families looking for a more laid-back experience can take a turn-of-the-century-style adventure on the Tom Sawyer paddle wheeler (www.tom-huck.com). The Lake’s dramatic sunsets are even more breathtaking when viewed from the water.
Two New Places To Stay:
Hix Lake and Cabin
1862 State Road N
The greatest attraction at Hix Lake and Cabin is its seclusion. There is just one cabin situated on 30 fenced acres in the middle of the Hix family farm. The two-story cabin has all the comforts of home but with a rustic, thrown-back-in-time décor. A small waterfall and creek pour into a 15-acre lake, stocked full with channel catfish, blue gill, perch, black crappie, bass and paddlefish. The lake has a swim beach, dock with swim ladder, two paddle boats and a fishing boat for guests to use. Other amenities include an outdoor shower, outdoor hot tub, campfire pit, hammocks and more than a mile of scenic walking trails.
More people — from Hawaii to Missouri — are discovering this “secret” hideaway, which opened in 2005, and with just the one cabin, reservations fill up quickly. Chances of getting in this summer are slim; consider this is a tip for summer 2011.
630 Camping Paradise Road
Opened just last year, this place has it all: tent camping with shade pavilions, RV sites, lakeside cabins, deluxe apartments, shower houses, a swimming pool, clubhouse, restaurant, banquet hall rental, wedding chapel, stocked pond for fishing, amphitheater, horseback riding, float trips and more — plus a 200-foot arena is under construction to use for horse shows and rodeos.
The horses are a definite attraction at Camping Paradise. More than 20 steeds are available for guided tours, which take about an hour and 15 minutes and follow a dozed path through timber. If you bring your own horse, you can explore 200 Ozarks acres with bluffs, valleys and wide-open ranges. You don’t have to camp to ride the trails but will receive a discount if you do.
Summer Events At The Lake
17th Annual Jaycees Testicle Festival
11 a.m.–11 p.m.
$5; children 12 and younger, free
Be advised that the featured fare, fried turkey testicles, is often gone come late afternoon, so don’t wait too long to get up your nerve. Various other food vendors are also available, and live entertainment starts in the afternoon.
Ozark Jazz Society presents World Class Ragtime Pianos
Osage National Golf Resort, Lake Ozark
573-365-1950, ext. 21
Jeff Barnhart and Brian Holland headline an evening of duets, solos, vocals and comedy, plus the talents of Anne Barnhart and Danny Coots. Reservations won’t be taken for the concert, so come early for choice seating.
June 11, July 9 & Aug. 13
Hot Summer Nights
Bagnell Dam Strip, Lake Ozark
All makes and models of cars, trucks and motorcycles will line the Strip and cruise around. The kid-friendly event offers giveaways, helicopter rides, entertainment and more.
Dog Days Bar & Grill, Osage Beach
How far can your dog jump? The national DockDogs organization comes back to Dog Days for a canine jumping contest. Entry fee varies per event. Anyone can enter.
Crossover Christian Music
Stoneridge Amphitheater, Camdenton
Two days of ministry, worship and fabulous live music from today’s top Christian music artists, including Sanctus Real, Mandisa, Fireflight, December Radio, Grits, Abandon, Phil Stacey, Tal & Acacia and more, plus featured speakers Tina Marie Griffin and Gracia Burnham.
Osage River Pow Wow
Miller County Fairgrounds, Eldon
6–10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday
American Indians come together to dance and sing, and the public is welcome to bring lawn chairs, watch and learn. Traders’ booths will be open throughout the event, and a perennial favorite snack, Indian fry bread, will be available.
4th Annual Art & Ambience Fair
Stone Crest Mall, Osage Beach
10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Sunday
Missouri artwork will be on display and for sale. Food, wine and spirits will be available for tasting and purchase. New this year: Kids Korner. Enjoy live music on Saturday with Jackie Newton and Sunday with Dale Blue.
Dog Days Restaurant, Osage Beach
Marine Max and Sea Ray Boats invite all boaters to the Lake’s largest family boating event featuring live music, prizes and activities all day long. Register online at aquapalooza.com.
17th Annual Missouri Wine Festival
Country Club Hotel & Spa, Lake Ozark
The festival will feature more than a dozen Missouri wineries offering samples of varied vintages and bottles for sale. Lake area restaurants will offer light fare; hotel packages are available as well. Cost covers wine and food tastings, and souvenir wine glass.
Lake of the Ozarks Shootout
Captain Ron’s, Sunrise Beach
The largest unsanctioned boat race in the Midwest attracts more than 100 racers and 70,000 spectators. Boat speeds will top 196 mph. Proceeds benefit the Lake Area Rescue Teams and other charitable organizations. For the weeklong schedule of events, visit the website.
Ellis Fischel Summer Celebration Cancer Gala
The Lodge of Four Seasons, Lake Ozark
$225 per person; table sponsorships at varying levels
The gala includes a silent auction, four-course dinner and entertainment by Michael Cavanaugh, recipient of Grammy and Tony award nominations for his piano/lead vocals in the Broadway musical “Movin’ Out.”