Since 1931, the Lake of the Ozarks in mid-Missouri has welcomed visitors to its shores. The man-made lake was created when the Union Electric Company, now AmerenUE, constructed the Bagnell Dam on the Osage River.

The lake covers 54,000 surface acres, and with 1,150 miles of shoreline, water sports and nature are popular activities year-round.

In colder weather, lake visitors find fishing for bass and crappie can be good if you’re adept at using jerkbait. The lake is loaded with a large variety of fish species, including largemouth, spotted, and white bass, and black and white crappie.

With fog lifting off the water and the occasional snowfall on the banks, natural beauty is inescapable at the Lake, and two state parks, Lake of the Ozarks State Park and Ha Ha Tonka, offer public lands to explore. Lake of the Ozarks State Park in Osage Beach sits on an undeveloped cove and offers hiking, winter camping, boat ramps, and fishing. Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Camdenton features fifteen miles of trails, fishing and boating access, and remarkable European-style castle ruins.

A hot summertime vacation destination, Lake of the Ozarks communities like Lake Ozark, Osage Beach, and Camdenton are ripe with dining, shopping, and entertainment. And while it’s a slower pace in winter, water and nature still beckon.

Lake of the Ozarks offers wonderful winter activities.

STAY Lodging is a sort of twofer at Camden on the Lake Resort. Not only do you have a comfortable place to lay your head, but nightlife is steps away at Horny Toad Entertainment Complex, one of the Lake’s live music destinations. Located on the water at the seven-mile marker, the resort also has boat slips available for visitors.

DO If you’re an “indoor” person, check out Bridal Cave. While not technically indoors, the cave is a constant sixty degrees, and winter guided-tours are smaller, more private affairs. The cave is riddled with large draperies (some of the largest drapery formations in the world) and an array of soda straws, among other common cave formations, created by mineral deposits made by water and time. If the weather is bad, though, call first as cave access may be hindered.

For outdoor fun, try the Ice at Old Kinderhook. At this outdoor venue, the sand volleyball courts of summer are transformed into a cold hard surface perfect for a pair of ice skates. You can skate solo or enjoy a pick-up game of pond hockey on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Sundays. The Ice is open daily through the end of February, cold weather permitting, and The Cabana near the rink serves hot food and drinks to keep you toasty.


EAT
Warm it up at one of the Lake’s newest restaurants. JB’s Boathouse Grill at Margaritaville Lake Resort, formerly Tan-Tar-A, features several of the brand’s popular island-themed menu items. A Paradise Burger (think “Cheeseburger in Paradise”) or Crispy Coconut Shrimp and a Havanas and Bananas Boat Drink make a tropical combination worthy of the water locale. Finish your meal with a slice of the grill’s signature Key Lime Pie, and don’t miss the Bloody Mary Bar on weekends.

Credits // Photos courtesy Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Rebecca French Smith