Lake of the Ozarks is a very large lake, a destination for many in the spring, summer and fall months. With boating and other water-related activities, the Lake is a social point for residents and tourists alike. The Lake is located in the center of the state of Missouri, about halfway between I-70 and I-44 along US-54. It has more shoreline than the state of California, over 1150 miles. Created by the damming of the Osage River back in the depression years of the late 1920s, and completed in 1931, the dam generates power and is currently managed by the Ameren Corporation.
Where Is It? How Do I Get There? Many roads lead to Lake of the Ozarks. It is located along US-54 between Jefferson City and Camdenton, MO. From I-70, take either US-54 west at Kingdom City, or US-63 south at Columbia to US-54. From I-44, one could take MO-17 north to MO-42 west to the Lake, or MO-5 north to US-54. From US-50, take US-54 south at Jefferson City.
Once I'm There, Where Should I Stay? There are many options for staying at the Lake.
Camping: If you are in an RV or tent, the closest public campgrounds are at Lake of the Ozarks Campground. There are four sections. All have some sites with electricity. Two sections have a playground. Three sections have showers that are available during the late spring and summer months. One has a boat ramp, and at least one has a public beach for swimming (in a cove). You may access more information at Lake of the Ozarks State Park Website.
There are also any number of private RV parks, from KOA on the south end, several RV parks on County Road W, and one or two in Eldon and Bagnell. There is a private RV park along the Osage River, Riverview RV Park downstream from the dam. If being on the water is important to you, be sure to ask about it when you call to reserve a spot.
Hotel/motel: If you want a budget motel, most of the lower priced places are located either in the townsite of Lake Ozark (north shore) or on the south side of the Grand Glaize Bridge. The closest to the “Bagnell Dam Strip”, is the RockwoodMotel. Shawnee Bluffs Winery has a small inn with cabins on its property just up from the Strip, and the Orchid Motel(near the intersection of Bagnell Dam Blvd. and Osage Beach Pkwy, is just up the road from there.
Chain motels exist in the area, but not in great quantity. The Choice chains have one property, the Sleep Inn which is located in Camdenton. In the Wyndham chain, there is a Days Inn located in Osage Beach, and a Baymont which is south of the Grand Glaize Bridge. Holiday Inn Express has a property in Osage Beach. Red Roof Inns also have a presence in Osage Beach, south of the Grand Glaize. The chains, other than the Margaritaville resort chain, do not include lake views or lake access.
If you would like a resort, most are corporate- owned, but many are located right on the water. Some have been at the Lake for years, such as Kapilana Resort, and Inn at the Grand Glaize. One very well-known resort, Tan-Tar-A, has been turned into Margaritaville ,a small chain of resorts, That one, plus (Lodge of the Four Seasons, are among many of the largest resorts in the area. One of the closest resorts to the “Bagnell Dam Strip” is The Lodge at Port Arrowhead. Most of these larger resorts will have a lake view, lake access (boat ramp) or both. The Regalia Hotel & Conference Center, located in Four Seasons, has a concert venue and fireworks on weekends during the spring and summer season. (This author has either stayed in or toured the resorts mentioned here, as part of vacations over the years. There are plenty more resorts not mentioned!)
Renting a home or condo: If you are inclined towards renting something with a kitchen and other home amenities, Airbnb has a large presence here, as does VRBO. Four Seasons Property Management has also been around for awhile and has many properties for short or long term rentals. Many rentals are condos, but there are some nice homes as well.