Eldon, MO is located only 15 minutes from the Lake of the Ozarks and 30 miles from Jefferson City, Missouri's state capital. Jefferson City and the lake area offer a wide variety of recreational activities.
Public Beach #1 - Lake Ozark
Hwy. 54 to Hwy. 42
Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Hwy 134
Public Beach #2 - Osage Beach
Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Off Hwy. 54
Bagnell Dam Access - Lake Ozark
Lake Road 54-50
South of Bagnell Dam off Hwy. 54
Gravois Mills Access - Gravois Mills
On Highway 5 next to the bridge
Shawnee Bend Public Access - Sunrise Beach
Hwy. 5 to Hwy. F on Hwy. TT
2 miles from Community Bridge
Cycling at Lake of the Ozarks
The Lake offers a variety of riding for cyclists of any style, level or age. Road Cyclists, Mountain Bikers, and recreational riders must bring their bikes.
Mountain bikers have 16 miles of sweet singletrack in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The Midwest Fat Tire Series called the Trail of Four Winds the best race course for 2002. It is widely known throughout the midwest for its beauty and solitude. Directions to the trailhead: From the junction of Hwy 54 and Hwy 42, go east on Hwy 42 for 4 miles; then right on Hwy 134 for another 2.5 miles and it¹s on the right.
Casual riders can enjoy a paved multi-use trail starting at the Village of Four Seasons City Hall, located 4 miles down Horseshoe Bend Parkway, off of Business 54. The trail parallels Horseshoe Bend Parkway, Bittersweet and Cherokee. Casual riders can expect up to 9 miles of casual riding.
The popular 216 mile Katy Trail is only 45 minutes from Lake of the Ozarks, in Jefferson City. The multi-use trail runs along the Missouri River. Hop on the trail to either Hartsburg or historic Rocheport for a fun day trip.
Roadies have several options. The local favorite is the toll bridge ride. We suggest beginning at Paul¹s Supermarket in Lake Ozark, at the junction of business 54 and Horseshoe Bend Parkway, and crossing the community bridge, onto Shawnee Bend. It's safe and scenic for up to 30 miles. Venture onto the lake roads that offshoot throughout the communities, and experience very little traffic, and nice rolling hills.
Skateparks can entertain both skaters and freestyle bikers. The Village of Four Seasons (located by the trailhead of the multi-use trail) is limited to skateboarders; however, all are welcome at the Rockhouse. The Rockhouse is a challenge for all levels, and is located in Linn Creek, next to Tonka Hills restaurant.
Bird Watching at Lake of the Ozarks
The Lake of the Ozarks, although man-made, functions as a natural water environment that is a feeding and resting ground for numerous species of wildlife, including a spectacular variety of birds. Species that are a familiar sight on the Lake (and in the area), include the great blue heron, hawks and ducks of many varieties, wild turkey, pectoral sandpipers, cliff swallows, terns, American goldfinches, ruby-throated hummingbirds, robins, bobwhites, whippoorwills, cardinals, blue jays, wood thrushes, eastern meadowlarks, phoebes, belted kingfishers, pileated woodpeckers and the "leftovers" king of the sky, the turkey vulture.
The great blue heron, often on the Lake, makes its nest in quieter spots along secluded rivers or creeks, away from human activity. If disturbed very often, they will desert these sanctuaries. They live in colonies or "rookeries". One such rookery can be found 3/4 mile south of Bagnell on the east side of the Osage River, where there has been as many as 80 nests. The heron family is related to the oriental bird of paradise, considered to be good luck in that part of the world.
Bald eagles arrive in October and are here until mid or late March. A few have been known to nest on the Lake but the close proximity of homes and man prevent any
accumulation. Although a fair amount have been seen on the Little and Big Niangua arms, some of the best concentrations can be found near Old Bagnell, and just below Bagnell Dam, on the Osage River. (eagles, terns and gulls chase shad and dive for fish especially when the dam turbines are operating.) There is a Conservation Access about 300 yards downstream from Bagnell Dam for viewing.
Although rare, golden eagles have also been observed in the area. Both bald eagles and ring-billed gulls migrate from the Great Lakes region to winter here. Other birds that have been sighted as they migrate are Canada geese, the white pelican and trumpeter swans. Double crested cormorants (large birds with a long black neck), or "water turkey" have also been observedsometimes in groups of 30 in the shallow areas around Swinging Bridges off Hwy 42, near Brumley.
Eastern phoebes and northern rough-winged swallows make their mud nests on the bluffs that contour the Lake. These can be found across from McCubbins Point on the Glaize Arm, and around the bluffs at the 15 and the 25 mile marker on the Osage Arm.
Other species (including the summer tanager, similar to a cardinal except with no crest on its head and the indigo bunting, blue with black on its wings and found in timbered areas), too numerous to mention can be sighted at Lake of the Ozarks. Excellent areas for viewing are just about anywhere that¹s outsidesometimes even driving down the road or off the deck of your condo or resort, or around your campsitebut always on the Lake or the rivers, and in the woods. Easily accessible to the public are the Lake of the Ozarks State Park and Ha Ha Tonka State Park . They say the last raven ever seen in Missouri was at Ha Ha Tonka. Saline Valley Conservation Area, a 3,500 acre Public Access is a natural habitat (no trails), where wild turkey and quail are plentiful along Saline Creek. The entrance is located approximately three miles south of the junction of Hwy 54 and M, near Eldon. Plant life, blooming trees (around the first two weeks of April) and countless wildflowers are an extra bonus from early spring through fall, including many species of ferns. Current bird reports: 573-445-9115
Lake of the Ozarks Hunting
Hunters visiting the Lake of the Ozarks discover the woods and fields surrounding the Lake are filled with a wide variety of game. During the prescribed hunting seasons, hunters may pursue deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, dove, duck, geese and quail in the diverse terrain and on the waters at the Lake.
The two most popular species for hunters visiting the Lake are deer and turkey. The area has a growing population of both species which thrive in the nearby wooded areas and farmlands. During the spring turkey season, hunters call for a solitary bearded bird in the woods, while in the fall, they have the best luck plucking a hen or jake from a flock of birds in the woods or fields.
A booming deer population includes plenty of trophy-size bucks. Locations containing open timber and scrub oak are prime spots to bag deer during both the bow and firearms seasons. If the Lake area's woods produce a good acorn crop, look for the deer in the thicker timber.
The woods are also loaded with gray and fox squirrels for hunters who enjoy tracking smaller game. The farmlands and open fields circling the Lake contain good populations of rabbit and quail. Favorite areas for cottontail include milo fields near the edges of woods, briar patches, and draws along gravel roads or railroad tracks. Quail can be found in brush piles or brushy, fence rows near open fields.
The first migratory birds to visit the Lake in the fall are doves. The best spots to find these birds are freshly cut, grain fields or farm ponds with hedge trees nearby. When the weather turns cold, ducks and geese visit the lake in large numbers. Frequent flyers to the Lake area include mallard, wood duck, gadwall, greenwing teal, ringneck, goldeneye, Canada and snow geese.
Most hunting in the Lake of the Ozarks region isdone on private land with permission of the landowner. There are also some hunting preserves and landowners who offer land-lease packages for hunting.
According to Missouri law, "A person commits a crime of unlawful use of weapons if he/she knowingly...possesses or discharges a projectile weapon while intoxicated." Don't endanger yourself or others by hunting while under the influence of alcohol.
Hunting Permits - Please verify permits costs and restrictions on the Missouri Conservation website.
Hunter Education is required for all persons born after Jan.1, 1967 purchasing firearms hunting permits.
Dogwood and Thong Trees
Dogwood Trees Supply Spring Time Beauty at Lake of the Ozarks
Seventeen species of dogwood occur in North America and six of these grow naturally here in Missouri. While only 3 of the 17 species obtain tree size, the most outstanding species of the arboreal class is the flowering dogwood.
This tree (Cornus Florida) is generally distributed throughout the eastern U.S., extending north to southern Michigan and southern Maine, west into eastern Texas, and south to central Mexico. It reaches its optimum size in the southern states, becoming a tree up to 40 feet tall and 14 inches in diameter. It prefers a dry upland site and appears to obtain its best form under the cover of taller trees. In some parts of the nation the presence of dogwood was believed to indicate good agricultural soils. In Missouri this is not necessarily so, for beautiful specimens are often and widely found on the dry, acid soil of our Ozarks forests.
Dogwood in winter appears ungainly, with its horizontally spreading branches and uptipped buds. The dark cinnamon-brown, "alligator checked" bark makes the tree easily recognizable and even seedlings and saplings, with the reddish blush, the uniform whorled arrangement of the new branchlets and the upturned tips, enable the amateur to recognize the plant. The flower buds give promise of next year¹s splendor: though the temperature may fall to the zero mark, the dogwood never fails to make known spring's arrival.
Late March or early April sees the buds begin to break open and the four petals, (protective bud scales or bracts) begin growing at the base, gradually enlarging, until the overall size ranges from three to four inches across and the color runs from green, through yellow, to a brilliant white. The flower takes the shape of
an ivory maltese cross and all the blooms open at the same time on any one tree and are extended in layers with shadowy spaces between. Each flower is held at right angles to the light and the tree in the open covers itself with an umbrella of color that appears to be shaped by the dome of the sky. The tree in the woodland border seems to concentrate its blossoms on the more open side, as though attempting to please the attention of the passing motorist.
Thong Trees Are Part of Lake of the Ozarks History
Early Native Americans marked trails with trees, bent to grow in an unusual fashion. Called thong trees, they are found throughout the Lake of the Ozarks area and were created to mark trails, springs, herbs used for medicinal purposes, salt supplies, and caves, etc...
Old-timers sometimes referred to the trees as "water trees" because they pointed to a spring or a river or 'buffalo trees" because the Native American women would air their buffalo hides over the bent trees. One of these thong trees can be viewed easily from the road. It is located in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park on Hwy 42. Follow Hwy 134 (off Hwy 42) to the Trail Information Center Cabin in the Park. Turn right onto Whispering Oaks Road (at the Trail Information Center). Travel 1.4 miles. The thong tree is on the left side of the road.
Lake of the Ozarks State Parks
Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Park Office: 573-348-2694; Ozark Caverns: 573-346-2500; Website: http://www.mostateparks.com/
Many lake area visitors don't realize a 17,441 acre playground lies just to the south of Osage Beach. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is Missouri's largest and can provide a pleasant diversion while vacationing in the Lake area. The park has 85 miles of shoreline and two public beaches, plus boat launching areas. Lee C. Fine Memorial Airport has a 6,500 by 100-ft. runway, plus terminal building, parallel taxiway, fuel and tiedown service. Hiking trails, horseback riding stable and four organized youth camps are offered.
The Grand Glaize Arm of the lake dissects the park with over 85 miles of shoreline. You will discover many of the park's facilities along this water corridor at the Grand Glaize Beach, 1.5 miles south of the Grand Glaize Bridge on Hwy 54 in Osage Beach and at Public Beach #1 at the end of Hwy 134.
Bring a picnic dinner to enjoy after swimming at the free sand beaches found in both areas. For large groups, reserve a picnic shelter for a $40 fee to guarantee its use or take your chances and use it on a first-come, first-serve basis when not reserved. Launch your own boat at the available ramps (minimal launching fee at Grand Glaize Beach and Public Beach #1; free launch at McCubbin Point). Rent a boat at PB#1 and Grand Glaize Beach. Fish free from a dock with crappie beds, as long as you have the appropriate Fishing license!
Discover unusual natural features along the park's lake shore on Lake of the Ozarks Aquatic Trail . This unique "trail" designed for boaters has stops marked by buoys. A free booklet keyed to these buoys explains the significance of each of the 14 marked shoreline highlights. It is available at the park office.
Naturalists present programs in an open air amphitheater from May until mid October, featuring slide shows or movies about natural features found in Missouri¹s state parks. Guided hikes and a variety of other programs are provided as well.
Many lake visitors escape the summer¹s heat by exploring 56° Ozark Caverns. Follow Highway A (between Osage Beach and Camdenton) for eight miles and follow the signs. After paying a small fee, hand held lanterns are provided which enhance the sense of discovering a whole new world of underground beauty. The spectacular Angel's Shower, a never-ending flow of water which seems to fall from the solid ceiling of rock into two massive bowl shaped stone basins on the cave floor, is one of the many features pointed out by your guide. Unusual animals, adapted to this world of darkness, can be seen as well.
Ozark Caverns Visitor Center opened in 1987 and helps visitors understand the cave environment. The one mile Coakley Hollow Self-Guided Trail near the Visitor Center takes visitors through one of the most scenic and naturally diverse parts of the park. This is one of ten trails in the park. A Trail Center on Highway 134 gives information on interesting features along these trails. Immediately behind it, Woodland Trail takes you into Patterson Hollow Wild Area, 1,200 acres which are completely undeveloped. A park trail and wild area guide gives additional information and is available at the park office.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Park Office: 573-346-2986 - Website: http://www.mostateparks.com/
It contains over 3,600 acres on the Niangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks and is located five miles southwest of Camdenton on State Road D.
There are 12 hiking trails (16 miles total) of various lengthwhich take you to such places as Devil¹s Kitchen and Turkey Pen Hollowand there are 8 known caves. The park has numerous picnic areas, two of which are shelters that can be rented for events and a playground. A Trail and Natural Area Guide is available at the visitor's center at the park entrance, along with outside exhibits. Visitors for the day can easily arrive by boat or car. (No overnight camping.)
Around the turn of the century, Robert McClure Snyder, a prominent Kansas City businessman, learned of the beauty of the Ha Ha Tonka area and journeyed there. He was so impressed with its rugged grandeur that he began purchasing much of the surrounding land and eventually acquired over 5,000 acres.
He hatched the dream of building a private retreat that would rival European style castles. He imported stone masons from Scotland and a European supervisor was hired to ensure authentic construction techniques. Kansas City architect, Adrian Van Brunt, designed the three-and-a-half story masterpiece. A central hallway rose the entire height of the building. In addition, a stone stable, an 80-foot-tall water tower and nine greenhouses were built on the estate. The stone and timber used in construction were taken from the immediate vicinity and hauled by mule team. Construction of the complex began in 1905.
But for Snyder, Ha Ha Tonka remained only a dream. In 1906, he was involved in a car accident on Independence Boulevard in Kansas City and was killed (he was one of the first automobile owners in the city). The interior of the castle remained unfinished until 1922 when Snyder's sons, Robert Jr., Leroy and Kenneth completed the upper floors of the building.
The Snyder family then faced years of adversity in trying to keep Ha Ha Tonka in the family. They were forced to sell Snyder's natural gas supply business to Eastern interests. A long, legal battle against Union Electric ensued over the waters of the Lake of the Ozarks that were encroaching upon the natural spring-fed lake at the foot of Ha Ha Tonka cliff. They finally leased the mansion to a Mrs. Ellis who operated it as a hotel.
In 1942, all the dreams came to an end. Sparks from one of Ha Ha Tonka's many fireplaces ignited the roof and within hours the huge castle was gutted, as was the stable. What remained were the stark, devastated outside walls that still brood on the edge of the cliff. The State of Missouri purchased the estate in 1978 and opened it to the public as a State Park.
The natural surroundings equal the impressiveness of the ruins. Geologically, the area is an example of "karst" topography, characterized by sinks, caves, underground streams and natural bridges. Huge caves have collapsed and created a large theater-like pit known as the coliseum. Legend has it the coliseum was used for Native American tribal meetings. One of Missouri's largest springs is located in the park and feeds an average of 48 million gallons of water a day into the Niangua Arm of the Lake.
For those who have not yet seen the spring, castle and park, words fail to do it justice. Discovering it is something each visitor considers a personal and memorable experience.
Free Things at the lake of the ozarks
They say, there is no free lunch...
but there are free things to do at Lake of the Ozarks.
Here are 10 free things to do at Lake of the Ozarks that will fit into any budget.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Access off of Hwy 42 or Osage Beach Parkway in Osage Beach
Trails, Picnic, Swimming Beach
Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Trails, Picnic, Castle Ruins
Thunder Mountain Conservation Area
Lake Rd 5-88
Trail, 80 ft Watch Tower, Archery Range
Camden County Museum
Linn Creek, 573-346-7191
Area history in photos adn artifacts
Miller County Museum, Tuscumbia
Area history in photos and artifacts
Willmore Lodge Museum
Bagnell Dam history: 964-1008
Bagnell Dam Overlook
National Mother's Shrine
Swinging Bridges and Shallows
Tunnel Dam Whistle Shallows
Edith, right Whistle Road