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Ozarks/Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Great Destination:

Value for Money:

Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Missouri native Paul Henning created TV’s “The Beverly Hillbillies” based on people he met in the Ozarks as a kid.
  • The Lake of the Ozarks’ squiggly shoreline is longer than California’s coast.
  • Springfield was the site of the nation’s first recorded shootout, between Bill Hickok and Davis Tutt (1865).
  • Highway officials, meeting in Springfield, proposed the number 66 for a new Chicago-to-Los Angeles highway (1926).
  • Missouri Meerschaum Company ships nearly 3,500 corncob pipes daily to buyers in the U.S. and abroad.

Of manmade lakes and country music

The Ozarks region covers much of southern Missouri, plus parts of neighboring Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. The terrain is often called the Ozark Mountains, but geographically, the region is a much-eroded plateau riven by deep river valleys. There are thousands of mapped caves, as well.

To provide hydroelectric power and flood control, the U.S. Corps of Engineers dammed several Ozark rivers, thus creating large recreational lakes — and boosting the region’s tourism business.

The 125-mile-long Lake of the Ozarks, covering 54,000 acres in central Missouri and best known of the lot, is well developed with requisite resorts and eateries for visitors. Boating enthusiasts can bring their own or rent anything from speedboats or houseboats to kayaks, pontoons and fishing boats. Parasailing or waterskiing are on offer, too. Adjoining parks and towns promise pleasures running the gamut from golf and shopping to cycling and cave explorations to blues and live country music.

Conservation and recreation also provide the underpinnings for several state parks, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and the Mark Twain National Forest.

The forest (eight of its nine noncontiguous units are in the Ozarks) boasts more than 750 miles of trails, good for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and motorized use. It has more than 350 miles of streams suitable for canoes, kayaks, inner tubes and rafts, and there are more than 35 campgrounds and picnic areas. Some 78,000 acres are only accessible by foot, bicycle or horseback.

The Ozarks culture, often a caricature in popular manifestations, is nevertheless correctly identified with the fiddle and country music. Television’s first national country music show, “Ozark Jubilee,” was broadcast from Springfield (1955-1960). Visitors may hear live country music and blues in area entertainment venues, and country music is definitely on the menu at the Branson resort complex.

On the other hand, cities in the region move with the times, offering broader choices for festivals, museums, theater, shopping, dining and nightlife as time goes on. Springfield, calling itself the “pulse of the Ozarks,” boasts of large-city amenities combined with quick access to forests, lakes and rivers.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Dive in the Billion Gallon Lake, in a former mine. Twenty-four well-lighted trails have been mapped for divers.
  • At the town of Lake Ozark, exercise your option to go waterskiing on the Lake of the Ozarks. Or go parasailing.
  • Climb Taum Sauk Mountain, Missouri’s highest point at 1,772 feet above sea level. Hike or cycle a section of the trails in the Mark Twain National Forest; the trails vary in length and difficulty.
  • Schedule yourself to attend the autumn Ozarks Bacon Fest, a tribute to bacon, bourbon and beer, held in Springfield.
  • Paddle a canoe along the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (the Current and Jacks Fork rivers) and camp on a gravel bar along the shore. Explore some of the 15-plus caves along the route.
  • Hike, or make time aboard a mountain bike, on the trails in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Fish for bass in the Lake of the Ozarks. Or, fish for bass and rainbow trout in the Current and Jacks Fork rivers.
  • Paddle your way along the nine-mile Lake of the Ozarks State Park Aquatic Trail. Or, float on an inner tube or raft on one of the streams in the Mark Twain National Forest.
  • Get married in Bridal Cave.
  • Drive some of the Ozarks’ most scenic routes in the Mark Twain National Forest and elsewhere in southeast Missouri when autumn colors are their richest. Another driving idea: Follow part of the historic Route 66 in the southwestern part of the state.
  • Rent a houseboat and spend your vacation floating on the Lake of the Ozarks.
  • Visit Civil War battlefields and their respective interpretive centers, in southwest Missouri, at Carthage, Newtonia and Wilson’s Creek.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Ride through the Fantastic Caverns in Springfield.
  • Have a 20-minute ride through the Ozarks on the Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train, available at Silver Dollar City in Branson. Watch out for the approaching “train robbers.”
  • Book one or two shows in Branson. One option is the Presleys’ Country Jubilee there. Or, check the schedule at Grand Country Music Hall.
  • Buy a corncob pipe at the Missouri Meerschaum Company in Washington, Mo. (The pipes are not made of meerschaum despite the name.)
  • Tee off at one of the more than a dozen golf courses near the Lake of the Ozarks.
  • Take a cruise on the Lake of the Ozarks aboard a paddle wheeler. Make that a dinner cruise.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Missouri Division of Tourism at www.visitmo.com