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Boating in Lake of the Ozarks
Boating is a favorite pastime in Lake of the Ozarks.

 

LAKE OF THE OZARKS
If Branson is Las Vegas, then Lake of the Ozarks is Lake Tahoe — less luminescent but just as lovely and inviting. Vacations here are defined not so much by the attractions as by the lake itself, which covers 54,000 acres and 1,150 miles of shoreline in the heart of Missouri. Stay at a luxury resort, hotel, condo, cabin, campground, bed-and-breakfast or houseboat. Laid-back or lively, the economy and pace of a trip here are completely up to you.

You can’t miss the Bagnell Dam Strip, a nostalgic boulevard with shopping and family activities like mini golf, go-karts, arcades and bungee jumping. Be sure to visit the scenic overlook and check out the Bagnell Dam Historical Museum.

On the water, the Aquatic Trail in Lake of the Ozarks State Park is a nine-mile route that runs from Public Beach #1 (near the lake’s east end) to Grand Glaize Beach. Fourteen stops, each marked with an orange-and-white buoy, point out sights like Lumberman’s Logging Chute, a gap in the bluff used a century ago to push railroad ties down into Grand Glaize Creek, and Nature’s Apartment Houses, overhanging rock outcroppings possibly used as shelter by Native Americans. A booklet with map and detailed explanations is available at the park office.

Tie up at one of the 25 full-service marinas operating here. The Osage Beach area on the east side of the lake has lots waterfront restaurants for dock-hopping, and marinas here include Kelly’s Port (named “Best Marina in the Nation” by PowerBoat magazine), Miller’s Landing (home of the Oar House Bar & Grill) and Yacht Club Marina (in a protected cove with repair and rentals).

The west side of the lake has traditionally been known as the “quiet side.” If this is more your speed, try Rebel Harbor Marina. It offers a gas dock, convenience store, repair and service, and boat launching.

Mark your calendars for the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, the largest unsanctioned boat race in the U.S., set for August 17 to 25. High performance monohulls and catamarans from around the country will compete on the one-mile drag, and other activities include a golf tournament, fireworks, live entertainment, boat rides, and meet and greets with the drivers. Last year’s event lured upwards of 100 racers and 100,000 speed-crazed fans.

Visit nearby Ha Ha Tonka State Park, containing 12 hiking trails, eight known caves and numerous picnic areas in its 3,600 total acres. The two coolest draws here are the Colosseum, a huge, theater-like pit rumored to have been used for Native American tribal meetings, and Castle Mansion, the famous ruins of a three-story stone estate that was started in 1905 but never finished.

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