Come along with the host of Missouri Life TV as she learns how to wakeboard at the Lake of the Ozarks, takes a tour of the dam, and visits Ha Ha Tonka State Park’s magnificent ruins as well as a cave that has hosted more than 4,000 weddings.



By Pam Clifton

Our next adventure with Missouri Life TV is on the water at Lake of the Ozarks. The Lake has more miles of shoreline than California, so there is plenty of water fun.

Water Wonders & Natural Places

Lake of the Ozarks is massive, spanning about 61,000 square miles and reaching depths of 130 feet. The creation of this lake was no small feat. Bagnell Dam, the powerhouse responsible for the lake, was completed in 1931 to supply electricity. 

Phil Thompson is plant manager at the dam where three different hydropower stations are operated from one control room 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. The plant has not been unmanned since 1929. Downstairs at the turbine deck, eight units run with two original turbines operating since 1930. An onsite machine shop is the place where staff build replacement parts as needed for the original 1930 machinery. 

The Osage River Project dammed the Osage River and some of its tributaries, including Gravois and Grand Auglaize Creeks, and parts of the Niangua River. Originally, the contributing rivers and creeks wandered from bluff to bluff. The project took more than two years. The dam’s name given by the Missouri Legislature was Lake Benton, named after a beloved senator. But people referred to it simply as Lake of the Ozarks. 

A bit deeper in the heart of the Ozarks is the stunning Bridal Cave. The cave itself is about a mile long, but tourists only see about a quarter mile of it. The back section includes large lakes.

Tour Guide Steve Thompson says the cave has been famous since the 1950s because of its unique formations and colors. It became a protected area in 1948 when it opened for tours.

A stunning part of the cave is the pipe organ formation, where stalagmites create a natural altar. To date, nearly 4,000 weddings have been performed in Bridal Cave.

Other rooms offer dramatic views, with an abundance of formations and natural colors. A white LED lighting system is used to accentuate the natural color formations, including white, red, blue-green, gray and black. There are also subterranean rooms and the largest single room, which is about 300 feet end-to-end and has a 110-feet ceiling. In addition, there is 30 feet of room below in the form of crystal-clear and breathtaking Mystery Lake.

Steve started as a tour guide at the site as a high school senior many years ago and has been there since then. 

“I get to meet people from all over the world,” he says. “This is my office, and I love showing it off.”

The beauty of the Lake of the Ozarks above and below the surface has caused many Missourians to make this location of the state their second home. 

Construction of one of the most famous second homes began in 1905 in the area of Ha Ha Tonka Lake and Spring in Camden County by wealthy businessman Robert Snyder. He immediately began constructing roads and making improvements. But Robert was not able to see his completed home because he was tragically killed in one of the first automobile accidents in Missouri. Although his sons finished building in the 1920s, they lost interest. The property was leased to Josephine Ellis to use as a hotel. But in 1942, an employee was building a fire in one of the many fireplaces when sparks caused a fire that gutted the castle. 

Ha Ha Tonka State Park was created in 1978 and has the state’s 12th largest spring and 17 miles of hiking trails. 

Adventures on the Water

Amateur bass fishing champ Marcus Sykora loves to feel the breeze on the open water and drop a line. With four distinct seasons, he enjoys the variety of fishing possibilities. In fact, he’s never seen two years in a row where his favorite fishing spot was the same. 

“Catfish, crappie, bluegill, walleye, spoonbill,” he says. “If you could do this for a living, who wouldn’t want to?”

The Performance Boat Center also provides fun on the water … in the form of fast and powerful boats.

The Osage Beach business is the world’s largest high performance boat dealership that sells, trades, services, paints, and rigs the most elaborate performance boats. A Florida company builds the hulls and decks, which are then sent to  PBC for completion and customers’ selections of final details. 

The public is welcome to visit PBC to see some of the coolest creations in the Ozarks.

Another exciting possibility for water fun is wakeboarding. Owner and instructor Kirby Liesmann offers lessons at Kirby’s School of Wake. He puts his skills to the test a few times a year by competing in wakeboarding competitions. He also teaches Missouri Life TV host Meredith Hoenes how to wakeboard.

Food & Fun

From fishing to other forms of fun-in-the-sun at Lake of the Ozarks, there are plenty of other things to do. One of those is sampling some of the most flavorful food in the state.

Wobbly Boots Roadhouse, located in Osage Beach, offers hearty Midwestern-style barbecue in the form of delicious dishes like hickory-smoked pulled pork nachos, spare ribs, and the Texas two-step brisket and smoked sausage sandwich. House-made sides like baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw complement the dishes. 

The Lake of the Ozarks is a short trip from just about anywhere in the state. Whether it’s a weekend or extended getaway, make plans to splash around at Big Surf Waterpark, lounge near the lake, take in evening entertainment at Main Street Music Hall, or enjoy a luxurious stay at Margaritaville or Lodge of the Four Seasons. 

This episode of Missouri Life TV shows you how and where to embark on your next adventure!