Lake of the Ozarks is the Midwest’s premier lake resort destination, offering world-class boating, golfing, shopping and fishing, and a wide variety of lodging, restaurants, state parks, and other recreational activities to suit any budget and taste. Yet, there are “hidden treasures” at that Lake that many visitors don’t know about but are worthy of exploring. Many may think these treasures would be costly but it is exactly the opposite. I am talking about the FREE things to do at the Lake that will take your breath away.
Here are the Top 15 Free “hidden treasures” at the Lake of the Ozarks
1. Lake of the Ozarks State Park: The Lake of the Ozarks has the largest State Park in Missouri with over 17,441 acres of things to do. At the park you will find two public beaches, boat launches, camp sites, Lee C. Fine Airport, hiking trails, horseback riding and much more.
2. Ha Ha Tonka State Park: This is an amazing park and a must see place to visit at the lake. This park contains over 3,600 acres with 12 hiking trails, 8 caves (not open to the public), picnic areas, playground, exhibits, and castle ruins.
3. Mother’s Shrine: The Shrine is known as “Mothers' Shrine” and is probably the most meaningful shrine in the country, featuring the Mothers' Wall of Life with names of mothers engraved in the black granite. A beautiful outdoor shrine with a 14 ft. sculpture of Mary standing above the fountains.
4. St. Patrick’s Church & Museum: Historic St. Patrick’s Church is the oldest church in Morgan County and the oldest stone church in the three counties surrounding the Lake of the Ozarks. St. Patrick’s Church was built by Irish Catholics, a first generation German-American and a Protestant Scotsman. The church was designed to hold 80 people and was ready for worship by 1870. The small living quarters were added to the old church in 1936 for the circuit riding priest. These quarters have been turned into a museum that contains many of the vestments, photos and artifacts of the early church. The last regular church service was held at this Historic Old Church July 20, 1952. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites, March 2, 1979. (Information provided by St. Patrick’s Church website.)
5. Camden County Museum: Located in what was once the Linn Creek School, each classroom has been devoted to a specific theme, ranging from archives to a weaving room, where woven rugs can actually be purchased.
6. Miller County Museum: This museum serves as a monument for the folk life of central Missouri society, with its Indian heritage, early home accessories, machines, crafts, schools, churches and agriculture.
7. Morgan County Museum: Located in the old Martin Hotel in Versailles, the Martin Hotel was established more than 150 years ago. There are 28 rooms decorated with exhibits, including a Chapel, a doll room, a military room and a tool room.
8. Bagnell Dam Historical Museum: This historic log building was completed in 1930 by the Union Electric Company (now Ameren Missouri) and served as an administrative and entertainment center for the mammoth Bagnell Dam construction project that created Lake of the Ozarks. The building is now refurbished and serves the Lake area and its visitors as a museum, cultural activities center and offices of the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.
9. Bagnell Dam Overlook: This overlook has a breath-taking view of the Bagnell Dam in Lake Ozark, but it also shows the difference in elevation between the Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River. The overlook has several areas explaining various historical facts along with a turbine that was recently retired after seventy plus years of use.
10. Eldon Airpark Disc Golf Course: Disc Golf is a great individual or family sport. It is played like regular ball golf but with disc (or frisbies). Eldon has a great 9 or 18 hole course (you can move the baskets) that can be played at any time.
11. Camdenton Disc Golf Course: Camdenton just finished building its disc golf course last year. This course is located at its city park and has more of a rugged terrain. This is an 18 hole course dug deep into the valleys of Camdenton.
12. Swinging Bridge and Shallows: This is a marvel all on its own and truly a Lake of the Ozarks “hidden treasure”. As a kid I used to swim here, and it is still around to admire. This bridge is comprised of 400 feet of wooden planks to go across the Auglaize Creek. This location is great for fishing, site seeing, swimming or even a picnic. Travel down the country side to see this “hidden treasure”, truly a great way to showcase the beauty of central Missouri.
13. Tunnel Dam and Whistle Shallows: Lake Niangua at Tunnel Dam is 3 miles long and is at the end of the Big Niangua River. This area retains the rustic charm of the Ozarks with majestic hills and dense forests. The gravel bars make perfect spots for afternoon picnics, swimming or just relaxing in the water. The shallow water in this area is ideal for kayaks or canoes. This is also a good area for wade fishing or fishing from the bank.
14. Aquatic Trail: This trail is administered by the MO Department of Natural Resources as part of the Lake of the Ozarks State Park; it is nine miles, which is a two hour boating excursion that runs from Public Beach #1 to Grand Glaize Beach. One may start from either end and a booklet with a map with a detailed explanation is available at the park office. You will see everything from a logging chute, caves, naturally solar heated bluff and much more natural phenomenon’s.
15. MO Department of Conservation Area: North of Camdenton there is a 40 acre conservation area, with an 80 foot viewing platform that is open to the public which allows visitors to get a bird’s eye view of the Lake. In addition to the tower, there is a 1-1/4 mile hiking trail and an archery practice range (no onsite archery equipment available).