Lake of the Ozarks, MO - When Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks was first impounded in 1932, few would have guessed that it would become the international vacation destination that it is today. Recently recognized by readers of USA Today as the "Best Recreational Lake in the Nation," t he area has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the early 1930s. However, visitors can still get a taste of the authentic Ozark experience from a bygone era.

Bagnell Dam Postcard
A vintage postcard featuring Bagnell Dam at Lake of the Ozarks.
The historic Bagnell Dam Strip, located immediately to the west of Bagnell Dam in Lake Ozark, is the area's original tourist hotspot.  "The Strip" has a modern yet kitschy, retro vibe and still features some of the original hallmarks that greeted travelers in the beginning.  The White House Hotel, though no longer accommodating guests, was built in 1932 and is an original holdover from The Strip's initial tourist boom.  Two towering fiberglass icons - "Chief Bagnell" and "Country Bumpkin" - of the 1960s, known as "Muffler Men," welcome vacationers as they travel across the Bagnell Dam and enter the heart of the "Strip," also known as the "Dogpatch Complex." This string of shops includes Grandma's Candy Kitchen, home to homemade chocolates and 20 flavors of award-winning fudge; the Leather Man  store, which specializes in customized leather goods and apparel;  a traditional arcade featuring Skee Ball as well as some of the most popular video games from decades gone by, and there's the iconic Dogpatch store, which opened in 1947. Dogpatch sells souvenirs of all kinds and has a wide variety of Ozark-themed toys, t-shirts and other gifts. 

The historic Bagnell Dam Strip is the original tourist area of the Lake of the Ozarks. The Strip is home to many different souvenir shops, restaurants and bars and hosts several vintage-inspired events throughout the year.
Keeping with the vintage vibe, there also are swimwear shops, ice cream parlors, an old-fashioned diner and the Old Time Photos studio where vacationers can dress up in costumes for commemorative photographs. Bagnell Dam Strip is home to many annual events throughout the year, including two popular classic car events - the Magic Dragon Street Meet Nationals and the Hot Summer Nights cruise-in summer series. During these events, attendees have likened it to walking onto the set of the classic movies "American Graffiti" and "Grease." The Strip is also a hub of action during the annual Lake of the Ozarks BikeFest, which is the largest motorcycle rally in the Midwest.

Following the creation of the Lake of the Ozarks, the area grew in popularity as a vacation destination due in large part to the pristine natural surroundings, the fantastic fishing and bountiful hunting. It was this natural beauty that drew many of the region's earliest settlers to the area. While a majority of the shoreline has changed since then, there are still places, specifically the area's two celebrated state parks, that hold the charm and natural beauty as they did before the Lake was impounded.

An aerial view of the "castle" ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Camdenton. Ha Ha Tonka is a very popular attraction for visitors to Lake of the Ozarks.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park was recently named by Condé Nast Traveler as the "most beautiful place in Missouri" and was also named the fourth-best state park in the country by readers of USA Today. 
According to Ozark folklore, the curious name of this Ozark beauty is derived from the tribe of Osage Native Americans that lived in the area and is believed to mean "laughing waters," in reference to the park's large natural spring. In addition to the spring,  the ruins of a 1900s-era "castle" stand out amid the scenery of this park located near the popular Lake community of Camdenton. The stone structure that sits atop a bluff overlooking the Niangua arm of the Lake is all that remains of the dream of Robert McClure Snyder, a wealthy Kansas City businessman, who began construction on his elaborate country estate in 1905. Snyder recognized the appeal of the natural wonders of the area and was quoted as saying, " Here I will spend my leisure, secure from the worries of business and the excitement of city life. I will fish and loaf and explore the caves of these hills, with no fear of intrusion." Tragically,  Snyder never saw his dream materialize as he died in one of Missouri's first auto accidents in 1906, but the home was finally completed by his sons in the late 1920s and served as Robert Snyder, Jr.'s residence for several years. It was later operated as a hotel until it was destroyed by fire in 1942. The skeleton of Snyder's dream home is now the centerpiece of the park. Ha Ha Tonka  offers 14 walking trails covering more than 15 scenic miles throughout the park. The trails allow visitors to see the topography of the area, complete with sinkholes, natural bridges, the state's 12th largest spring and several caves that were used by members of the Osage tribe and later as hideouts for counterfeiters and  bandits on the run.

Lake of the Ozarks State Park is a favorite among anglers.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park, consisting of 17,626 acres, is the largest and also the most popular of Missouri's state parks. Initially established in the mid-1930s as part of the National Park system, Lake of the Ozarks State Park features architectural structures from that era, including log buildings, rustic bridges and concrete dams constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corp. As such, it is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.  This park includes activities for every member of the family. Boat rental, public ramps, docks and a self-guided aquatic trail are perfect for boating activities and fish are abundant in the cool waters. Given the size of this state park, it offers an ample amount of pristine hardwood forests and undeveloped shoreline for a true sense of what the region looked like upon its settling. On land, 12 trails, ranging from 0.8 of a mile to 13.5 miles, wind through the park. Lake of the Ozarks State Park also features mountain biking and equestrian trails for those who would like to explore the park by bicycle or on horseback. Hidden below the surface of the park is Ozark Caverns, which features a large, impressive "Angel Shower," one of only fourteen in the world and the only one in the U.S. available for public viewing. Informative park interpreters offer hour-long hand-held lantern tours of the area's underground beauty from mid-May until mid-September.

The Grand Auglaize Bridge is one of the two famous "Swinging Bridges of Brumley" at the Lake of the Ozarks. The suspension bridges were built in the early 1920s.
Just a short drive from the Ozark Caverns visitor center, travelers willing to take a less-beaten path will find two hidden gems of the Ozarks - the famous "Swinging Bridges of Brumley." Designed by the acclaimed Missouri bridge builder Joseph Dice, these two suspended bridges are a sight and experience not to be missed at the Lake of the Ozarks. Located just 1,000 feet apart, both historic bridges still carry traffic today for area residents and intrepid travelers. Located on Swinging Bridges Road off of MO Highway 42 near Brumley, the first bridge, known as Mill Creek Bridge, features steel planking and was constructed in 1925 and spans roughly 35 feet across Mill Creek. The second is the Grand Auglaize Bridge, known locally as the "Big Swinging Bridge," and it is one of the longest wire-suspended bridges in Missouri. Constructed in 1920, the longer bridge spans 500 feet and is composed of wooden planking and provides an exciting and nostalgic trip afield. The wooden bridge has a weight limit of three tons, so larger vehicles are prohibited. For those with big rigs or that would rather not drive over the bridge, there is a pull-off where people can safely park and get out of their cars to walk across this piece of engineering ingenuity. The areas around both bridges offer great opportunities for fishing, swimming, sight seeing and picnicking.

Willmore Lodge in Lake Ozark was built in 1930 and served as the administrative headquarters for Union Electric executives during the construction of Bagnell Dam. It is now home to the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and the Bagnell Dam History Museum.
For a more in-depth peak into the area's Ozark heritage, guests will discover a wealth of cultural history at the Lake of the Ozarks' different museums. The four historically-focused museums offer a glimpse into the storied tapestry of life in the area from the original Native American inhabitants to early European settlers and beyond. Visitors can learn about the area's role in the American Civil War, the creation of Bagnell Dam, the lost and nearly forgotten towns that now lay under the six billion gallons of water that make up the Lake as well as the first glory days of the Lake of the Ozarks. Through interesting exhibits and fascinating artifacts, the Lake area's notable people and places come to life at the Camden County Museum in Linn Creek, the Miller County Museum in Tuscumbia, the Morgan County Historical Museum in Versailles and Willmore Lodge in Lake Ozark.

Lakeview Resort, located in Sunrise Beach, is one of several of the remaining smaller, longtime family-owned and operated resorts at the Lake of the Ozarks.
In the early days of Lake of the Ozarks, the area was dotted with motels and small mom-and-pop resorts where visitors could rest and get a good night's sleep. The remaining smaller, family-owned and operated resorts are still a mainstay for travelers, but the selection of accommodations has increased tremendously in both scale and in style over the years. In addition to the smaller resorts and motels, t here are full-service large-scale resorts as well as charming bed and breakfasts or comfortable cabins and cottages. There is no shortage of fully furnished vacation rental homes and condominiums. For those who prefer sleeping under the stars, there are spacious campgrounds and RV parks interspersed throughout the area.

To discover more ways to have fun at the Lake of the Ozarks and to get information on additional events, year around attractions, and available lodging and dining options, visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau's award-winning website,, or call 1-800-FUN-LAKE (386-5253).

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Phone: 800-FUN-LAKE (386-5253) Fax: 573-348-2293  

P.O. Box 1498  Osage Beach, MO 65065

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