Missouri is home to acres and acres of lakes, from small community lakes to mammoth reservoirs. For the past three years, we have called the Lake of the Ozarks home, living in a condo overlooking the 31 mile marker, just a little less than halfway between Bagnall Dam and Truman Dam…… which forms another terrific lake, Truman Reservoir. While all of our big lakes can be described as unique, the Lake of the Ozarks enjoys a national reputation as a vacation destination where water borne recreation reigns supreme. It is big, crowded in season, bodacious in nature and beautiful. For many in our multi state region, it is simply “the Lake”, needing no further description. It is a terrific place to visit, unwind and cut loose. I have enjoyed our residency on the lake, thankful for the opportunity to become acquainted with the many things it has to offer, and especially appreciate the friends we have made, but the gypsy blood we share is stirring and we are saying goodbye to the lake this week.
I became acquainted, superficicially, with the Lake of the Ozarks in the mid 60s. She was different then, still undeveloped with a relatively small resident population gracing her shores. Truman had not been built, and flood fluctuations were significant. The fishing was unbelievable and the migrating duck populations would keep you up with their raucous chatter at night. A big boat was 20′ long with a heavy, smoky, 90hp outboard doing the pushing. Water skis were made of cypress, heavy and came in pairs…..one of which was adorned with a slalom keel for the proficient skier. There were a few eateries that could be reached by water, mostly serving hand formed burgers and hard shelled tacos. Life was simple and the lure was the cooling respite a tube or raft offered as one would loll about in a quiet cove, not far from your barrel floated, wooden dock with a hand welded, steel super structure as it’s spine. The pace was slow and the living was easy. Times have changed and the pace has quickened a bit.
The lake today is a fast paced, tourist laden Mecca. The boats are big, really big and very fast. The wakes one encounters in a 21′ bass boat will bring you off plane in a hurry and reinforce your appreciation for efficient, automatic bilge pumps. The lake belongs to the go fast boat folks and they keep things interesting for those of us still more focused on a pocket, point or hump where the fish like to congregate. We enjoyed a pontoon for most of our tenure here, it provided a sedate cruise to one of the many eateries located on her shores. If you like to people watch………this is the place! The lake is home to a world class party cove that needs no introduction and several new, themed restaurant-marina combos that sport such amenities as swim bars and giant screen televisions where the sports minded viewer can catch the latest action. We leave with a hatful of terrific memories and eye opening experiences. We are also leaving a cadre of dear friends behind, with the customary promises of getting together occasionally. After all, it is 2016, and folks routinely drive 20 miles for lunch or a movie….
A bass boat on a lift, on a recreational lake, is limiting. A bass boat on a trailer, in your garage, can be pressed into service on any lake you choose and I will be back on Table Rock, Bull Shoals, and my favorite, Truman. They have changed too, but the trees in the newer Corp lakes pretty well deny the water to the big, fast boats that are in their element on LOZ.
So it is that we are saying goodbye to the big, brash Lake of the Ozarks, and hello, again, to the Queen City. It is fitting that I express my deep appreciation for the opportunity to move about and meet new folks and enjoy new adventures on 9-11, an opportunity denied to those Americans who perished on this day 15 years ago. Do any of us know where we will be 15 years from now?
There are no guarantees…….