Lake of the Ozarks is premier vacation spot

By John Neporadny Jr.

With so much to do and see at Lake of the Ozarks, anglers visiting this great bass fishery must make sure they set aside plenty of time so they and their families can enjoy the total lake experience.

“It is Mid-America’s premier vacation destination with all kinds of boating and water activities,” says Jim Divincen, executive director of the lake’s Tri-County Lodging Association. “We have different lodging facilities to meet all types of budgets.”

The lake’s hotels and resorts offer a wide array of lodging choices (6,000 units) including family oriented resorts on the waterfront, well-known motel chains, rental condominiums and bed-and-breakfast accommodations. There are also 1,500 campground sites available for the outdoor enthusiasts.

High on a visitors’ must-see list are the area’s two state parks, HaHa Tonka in Camdenton and Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach. Both parks offer hiking trails, boat docks and picnic areas.

“HaHa Tonka State Park continues to be one of our highest visitors’ satisfaction activities,” says Divincen. High atop a 250-foot bluff at the park are the ruins of an early 20th-century stone castle built by Robert McClure Snyder, a prominent Kansas City businessman who imported stonemasons from Scotland to make sure his private retreat would rival the castles of Europe. The park is also Missouri’s premier showcase of karst topography with a honeycomb of tunnels, eight caverns, springs, a 70-foot wide natural bridge that spans 60 feet and stands more than 100 feet high and sinkholes, including a 500-foot long by 300-foot wide sinkhole called the Coliseum.

The Lake of the Ozarks State Park is Missouri’s largest state park covering 17,441 acres with more than 80 miles of lake frontage. The park’s log buildings, rustic bridges and stone ditch dams built by the Civilian Conservation Corps are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Another park attraction is Ozark Caverns, a short, spacious cave featuring a unique hand-held lantern tour that includes viewing the “Angels’ Showers” an endless flow of water that falls from the rock ceiling into two massive bowl-shaped stone basins on the cave floor.

The lake also features two other underground attractions—Bridal Cave in Camdenton and Jacob’s Cave near Versailles. Bridal Cave was discovered by the Osage Indians centuries ago and features giant columns, stalactites, stalagmites and Mystery Lake.  Jacob’s Cave is the largest and most decorated cave in the lake area with a one-mile tour over a level concrete walkway.

Families will discover plenty of attractions for kids at the lake. One of the top fun spots is Big Surf Water Park where the family can enjoy Raging Rapids, the Space Bowl, the Wave Pool, Zambezi Falls and other watery entertainment. Visitors can also go next door to Big Shot Family Fun Park for more rides.

A couple of indoor amusement centers at the lake include Miner Mike’s Adventure Town  and Buster’s, a combining kids’ rides and high-tech games and simulations all under one roof; and Timber Falls Indoor Waterpark that includes a three-story tree house, 600 feet of water slides, activity pool, 21-seat whirlpool and a lazy river area all located in Tan-Tar-A Resort. “Timber Falls is really neat for the kids no matter what the weather outside is like,” says Divincen. Youngsters can also stay pretty busy visiting the lakes seven miniature golf courses and seven go-kart tracks.

More family entertainment is available at Main Street Music Hall in Osage Beach and Stoneridge Amphitheater. The music hall features a two-hour variety show packed with musicians, singers and comedians displaying their strong sense of patriotism and singing gospel medleys. The amphitheater has seating for 10,500 spectators and holds a variety of concerts throughout the year.

For the shoppers in the family, the lake area is one of the state’s major year-round retail centers. “We have the largest premier outlet mall (Osage Beach Premium Outlets) in the state with 110 stores,” claims Divincen. There are also more than 50 antique shops within 50 miles of the lake. After shopping or enjoying any of the lake’s other activities, you can satisfy your appetite at one of the lake’s 100 restaurants located on and off the water.

Fifteen championship golf courses make the lake area a great place for golfers as well as fishermen. Shooting enthusiasts can also sharpen their skills at the Missouri Trapshooters Association’s shooting range in Linn Creek and the indoor range (for pistols and bows) at Pistols Plus gun store in Osage Beach.

All of these attractions make the Lake of the Ozarks a great vacation place, but the top draw is the lake itself and its various water activities such as swimming, boating and water skiing. The lake features 31 marinas offering boat, houseboat and personal watercraft rentals. Besides its great bass fishing, the lake is one of the best multi-species fisheries in the state with thriving populations of crappie, white bass and catfish.

The watery environment makes the lake area an ideal feeding and resting area for numerous species of wildlife, including a large variety of birds. Some of the species bird watchers can view at the lake include the great blue heron, hawks, ducks, wild turkey, pectoral sandpipers, cliff swallows, terns, American goldfinches, ruby-throated hummingbirds, robins, quail, eastern meadowlarks, belted kingfishers, pileated woodpeckers and bluebirds.

Covering 54,000 acres and running 92 miles, the Lake of the Ozarks is a scenic panorama offering a wide range of leisure and water activities that will excite visiting anglers and their families for as long as they want to stay.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 162-page vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com.

Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are
available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.


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