Lake of the Ozarks is a constructed human-made lake in Missouri, United States, which is derived from the Osage River. It is located in the northern part of the Ozarks, which is how it got its name. The lake includes the tributaries of Niangua River, Grandglaize Creek, and Gravois Creek. The surface area of the lake measures 220 square kilometers, with an impressive shoreline of 1,850 kilometers. This extensive shoreline is one of the most distinctive features of the Lake, and is a major draw for tourists and visitors to the area. The lake has a snakey, curved shape, more like a traditional river than lake, which is why it is able to have such a long stretch of shore.
The lake was intentionally made via the process of flooding. The Bagnell Dam construction first began in 1929, and was completed 2 years later. The dam reached spilling elevation about a month after completion, in May 1931. The lake was officially named Lake Benton in honor of Senator Thoms Hart Benton, a Missouri Senator who served the state from 1820 to 1850. The lake was also listed as the Osage Reservoir or Lake Osage during the construction process. However, over time, it became clear that residents of the area simply referred to it as “the Ozarks” after its geographic location.
The Lake of the Ozarks is located in a section of central Missouri known as ‘ the Ozarks’. This region occupies parts of four different counties, those being Miller County, Morgan, Camden, and Benton County. The lake sits at an elevation of 200 meters above sea level, and is nestled within the Ozark Mountains. The main inflow and outflow of the river comes from the Osage River and is controlled by the Bagnell Dam at the lake’s northeast end. The lake itself has a similarly river-like shape that measures 150 kilometers. This main channel also has several tributary fed arms which branch out from the Osage.
Tourism is very popular in Lake of the Ozarks, and the region is visited by an estimated 5.4 million visitors yearly, with approximately 10 million visitors in 2020. Some 70 square kilometers of land along and around the lake are designated as the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Ha Ha Tonka State Park also occupies a portion of the lake’s shoreline, as well as the lake’s Niangua Arm.
The Lake of the Ozarks is popular with tourists for a variety of reasons, shopping, boating, fishing and visiting the state parks are considered the primary reasons for visiting, although the list of possible activities in the area is extensive. Outdoor enthusiasts will love hiking the state park trails, or getting out on the water in one of any number of different boats, powered or not, and the gorgeous landscape is a draw in itself.Lake of the Ozarks is also popular for partiers. Unlike most state parks, Lake of the Ozarks State Park contains an area known as Party Cove (officially Anderson Hollow Cove) and has become synonymous with large crowds and raucous fun times.The cove has become increasingly popular especially for Fourth of July celebrations, and boats will drive in from all over the lake to tether together, creating one giant floating tailgate style party area. Whether the aim is to enjoy nature or experience a one-of-kind party, there is something for any visitor to enjoy at Lake of the Ozarks.