Winding and weaving its way around 1,100 miles of shoreline, Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks, has been likened to a twisted dragon. This undulating Lake of the Ozarks is filled with fascinating stories and soft adventure.
THE UNDULATING, DRAGON-LIKE LAKE OF THE OZARKS
As our 3-hour drive from St. Louis to the lake was concluding, we made a stop at The Willmore Lodge. This historic 1930 log building is home to the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce as well as the Bagnell Dam History Museum.
HISTORIC WILLMORE LODGE
This Adirondack-style, 6,500 square foot lodge was constructed in Oregon for Missouri's Union Electric Company. After the structure was cut and assembled from Western white pine logs, and approved by Union Electric's president, it was then marked, disassembled, and transported by train to Missouri. It was finally reassembled at the present site using only square wooden pegs and overlapping corner saddle notchings to hold it together. The building was reassembled and completed in about three months at an approximate cost of $135,000.
HAND-MADE BEADED MOCCASINS IN THE BAGNELL DAM HISTORY MUSEUM
In 1930, the Bagnell Dam was still under construction, so the view from the Lodge was only wooded valleys and grassy fields along the narrow little Osage River. The sprawling dragon shaped Lake of the Ozarks was over a year from being open to the public and as yet to be named.
In 1945, under a cloud of scandal, Union Electric sold the Lodge, a hotel, pleasure boats, forty thousand acres of lakefront property, and eight hundred miles of shoreline to Cyrus Crane Willmore for $320,000. Ultimately, many years after Willmore's death, Union Electric re-acquired the building and adjoining property. The Lodge is now preserved as a historic site, and houses the history of its region.
Construction of the Bagnell Dam, to impound the Osage River, started just months before the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression. It was completed in 1931 and the resulting reservoir is what we now know as the Lake of the Ozarks. At the time of construction it was one of the largest man-made lakes in the world and the largest in the United States.
BAGNELL DAM COMPLETED IN 1931
When it comes to lodging, Lake of the Ozarks certainly provides enough choices. You can pick your accommodation from a delicious menu of rustic cabins, comfy condos, fully equipped houseboats, family-oriented resorts or luxurious pampering retreats. For those of you who know me it will not come as a surprise that I chose one of the latter.
The Camden on the Lake Resort, Spa & Yacht Club at Toad Cove is the newest and most luxurious full-service resort to open at the Lake of the Ozarks in nearly a decade. The hotel is located adjacent to the Toad Cove Entertainment Complex and covers over a quarter of a mile of shoreline.
After a full day of driving and sightseeing, dinner at Camden on the Lake's H. Toad (as in Horny Toad) was the perfect place for a relaxing casual dinner with a drop-dead lake view.
HAVE A DRINK LAKESIDE WITH H. TOAD AT CAMDEN ON THE LAKE
Following a night's rest at Camden on the Lake, we were ready to let the good times roll. The options for fun at the Lake of the Ozarks are unlimited.
The imposing architecture and breathtaking scenery of Ha Ha Tonka State Park makes it one of Missouri's most treasured spots. The park features the stone ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century mansion built high atop a bluff by a prominent Kansas City businessman. The mansion was nicknamed the "castle," because it was modeled after later European castles from the 1500's.
Golf is also an option at some fifteen courses including Old Kinderhook's Tom Weiskopf Signature course…carved out of the Ozark hills and ranked as the #2 course in Missouri; the Club at Porto Cima…a private Jack Nicklaus Signature Course; and the Osage National Golf Club…with 18 of its 27 holes designed by Arnold Palmer.
The Lake of the Ozarks offers a variety of other activities throughout the year. You can go waterskiing, tubing, biking, zoom around in a speedboat, or take a delightful lake cruise on the 150-passenger Tropic Island motor yacht. You can just drop a fishing line and dangle your feet in the water, or you can just do nothing. You can eat yourself into oblivion or spa yourself into supermodel form.
My quest for supermodel form began with a couples massage at Spa 54 at Copper Door Aveda Spa in the Camden on the Lake Hotel. My husband and I felt rejuvenated and revitalized, but no supermodel form emerged.
RELAXING PRIOR TO COUPLES MASSAGE AT SPA 54
Next day I was off to The Lodge of Four Seasons, the luxurious grande dame of the Lake of the Ozarks, for a day at the iconic Shiki Spa. Aaaahhhh, the Shiki Spaaahhhh…one of the largest resort spas in the Midwest. "Shiki" means "four seasons" in Japanese, and the spa follows an Asian theme to bring guests a unique and unparalleled experience.
Following my Spa Shiki Supracor Exfoliation & Massage and my Anti Gravity Facial, I am certain you would not have recognized me. And my handsome hunk of a husband looked even more handsome after his Gentleman's Facial. But we still did not make the supermodel cut.
Our beet and goat cheese salad lunch at Spa Shiki's café was very, very healthy and our dinner at HK's, the signature restaurant of the waterfront Lodge of the Four Seasons, was very, very divine. No calorie counting there.
HK is named after the resort's beloved founder, the late Harold Koplar, a Russian-American hotelier and businessman who established the development at Lake of the Ozarks in 1964. Located off the main lobby, HK's, features floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of the lodge's beautiful Japanese Gardens and of the Lake of the Ozarks main channel. The food was as beautiful as the view.
JAPANESE GARDEN AT THE LODGE OF FOUR SEASONS
Other culinary treats at the Lake included lunch at Baxter's Lakeside Grille. It was an "ooh" and "aah" lunch…first because of the view, and then because of the food. This classic American restaurant builds on the rich history and tradition of excellence that the Lake Area is known for. The menu is a taste-pleaser, no matter your taste preference.
Dessert followed at Randy's Frozen Custard where a Turtle Concrete concoction totally eradicated my supermodel fantasy. To quote their motto: "You Know It's Fine, When You See The Line!"
RANDY'S FROZEN CUSTARD…YUMMY!
After years of wanting to get to the Lake of the Ozarks, I'm glad I finally made it! It is truly a lake to love!
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer and Travel Consultant.