Known as one of the top lake destinations in the midwest, Ozark Lake is a must-visit for RV lovers who crave water-based recreation. Located in Benton, Camden, Miller, and Morgan Counties, Ozark Lake is a gigantic body of water that covers 54,000 acres in central Missouri. The lake was formed in 1929 when it was created by the construction of the 2,543-foot long Bagnell Dam. Once built, the lake was the largest man-made lake in the United States and one of the largest in the world.
The lake is the center of most recreational activities in the area, with boating, paddling, fishing and swimming being very popular. The environment around the lake is also very peaceful and serene thanks to the forested areas and mostly untouched land. Unlike the majority of the lakes owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COA), most of the shoreline land at Ozark Lake is privately owned. Despite this there are still plenty of fun things to do thanks to the location of two state parks on the eastern (Lake of the Ozarks State Park) and southern (Ha Ha Tonka State Park) ends of the lake.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park is also home to the best RV camping in the area thanks to the 124 sites with electric hookups and the 58 primitive sites. If you don't have an RV you can also rent one near the park. Ozark Lake is open all year round.
Whilst the lake is huge in size, a lot of the area around it is not accessible to the public since it is private land. The easiest way to access the lake is to drive to either of the two state parks that are located on the banks of the lake or to a private resort.
A handy feature about the location of Ozark Lake is that it's very easy to reach from many major cities, including Kansas City, St. Louis, or Springfield. It is also very well marked with lots of signs and phone reception available so you can look up GPS results if you do get lost.
Some of the roads in and around the lake (in particular within Lake of the Ozarks State Park) are known to be tricky to navigate for large RVs and motorhomes due to low-hanging branches and gravel roads. We recommend that you call ahead to reserve a spot within the campground and then use your feet, car, or bicycle to get around, so you don’t have to worry about scratching up your RV.
There is plenty of parking located within the state parks, however you will have to pay their daily entry fees if you are not camping there.
There are no public transportation options available.
The closest RV camping area to Lake Ozark is the campground located at Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Here you will find a mixture of wooden and open sites that are known for being very well maintained and either on the lake or more secluded. There are 124 campsites that feature electric hookups and a further 58 that are completely primitive. Both the electric and primitive sites feature pull-through and back-in sites for your convenience.
The campground features some great amenities, including a fire ring, picnic table, and tent pad, as well as modern restrooms with vault toilets, showers with hot water, playgrounds, a dump station, and water access all centrally available There is also an area where you can chop up some wood for your campsite and a store with plenty of supplies and a laundry room.
Since this campground is on the lake it does get very busy during the summer months so we recommend that you reserve a site in advance. If you are renting an RV and haven't done so before you should check this out before your trip.
Although the lake is man-made, Lake Ozark is a spectacular birding destination due to its natural water environment. The lake attracts many birds who use it as a feeding and resting ground, including the great blue heron, hawks, wild turkey, pectoral sandpipers, cliff swallows and many, many more. If you can't get out on the lake then you will still be able to go birding in the forested areas, especially within the two state parks. If you are lucky you may be able to see bald eagles arrive in October.
Looking to do some hiking in and around Ozark Lake? If so, the two state parks are the perfect locations for you to explore. There are 12 different hiking paths at Lake of the Ozarks State Park that range from a quarter mile to just over 13 miles in length. One of the most popular is the Coakley Hollow Loop Trail, which is just under one mile long and offers gorgeous views of the wooded wonderland of the Ozarks. If you are further south there are also five trails within Ha Ha Tonka State Park, including the well-regarded Spring Trail.
Whether you are land bound or out and about in a boat you have plenty of different options if you want to enjoy a lovely picnic. If you are on the land the two state parks have easily accessible picnic areas that feature great amenities, including toilets, picnic tables, BBQ grills and water collection points. If you are on a boat then we recommend that you go for an adventure and find your own secret spot along the banks of the lake. Remember though, keep off private land!
If you are looking for a special activity to do off the water you may be interested in checking out the Ozark Caverns. The caverns are located within Lake of the Ozarks State Park and from mid-May until mid-September they are open for interpretive tours. The tour is around half of a mile long and will educate you on the development, formation, and different animals species that call the caves home. For more information on the tour you can check out the state park website.
Ozark Lake is home to many boating destinations, including what the New York Times has described as the "oldest established permanent floating bacchanal in the country". On summer weekends as many 3,000 pleasure boats with around 8,000 aboard have been known gather in the cove to party and there have been many events over the years that have made the cove notorious. While the cove isn't as popular as it was in the 1980s, it is still a great place for RV travelers to unwind and kick back during their visit to the lake.
Once the weather is warm, there is no better way to cool down than by going for a dip in the beautiful waters of Ozark Lake. Since the lake stretches for 80 miles, there are many, many beaches available for you to enjoy. If you are looking for an area in particular we recommend that you check out one of the two beaches within Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Both of the beaches offer restroom and changehouse facilities but there will be no lifeguards on duty.