The Lake of the Ozarks is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Midwest. It has even won the title of the Best Recreational Lake in the Country, with California’s Big Bear Lake and Iowa’s West Okoboji Lake trailing behind in places two and three, respectively.
It sits alongside Missouri’s biggest state park, and is a widely sought-after vacation destination with plenty of activities for everyone from young, single travelers to large families. Get a boat rental, go windsurfing, rent a jet ski, explore caves, or kayak along the scenic coast. No matter your age or interests, there’s something at the Lake of Ozarks for everyone.
However, there’s also plenty of things you don’t know about the Lake of the Ozarks. Here are 10 fun facts that might surprise you:
1) The Lake of the Ozarks actually has more coastline than the entire state of California, with 1,100 miles of shoreline. Most people don’t realize the expansiveness of the lake, but are quickly surprised when they visit.
2) Over the years, there’s been a handful of weird items discovered in the Lake of the Ozarks. For example, in 2002, a group of divers discovered a Porsche at the bottom of the lake, and it was later determined to have belonged to actor Nicolas Cage. Additionally, every year, a shore cleanup group sponsored by Ameren Missouri finds some interesting artifacts. In the past, this has included an artificial leg, a motorcycle, a shopping cart, and even a treadmill.
3) On major holiday weekends, you can expect to see over 10,000 boats fill the Lake of the Ozarks.
4) Bagnell Dam, whose development resulted in the Lake of the Ozarks, was completed in 1931 to generate electricity for St. Louis. At the time of its completion, the Lake of the Ozarks was the largest manmade lake in the country. It also proved to be a beacon of light during the Great Depression, because it provided jobs to hundreds of needy people.
5) The entire lake spans 92 miles, but it’s home to a whopping 900 campgrounds.
6) There are rumors of catfish large enough to eat a human lurking at the bottom of the lake. Thankfully, this is just a myth that’s been officially dispelled. Every two years, the Dam gets a full underwater inspection, and a few spot inspections here and there.
Terry Hart, a local diver, confirmed that there were no fish big enough to eat a human. “After you get down 40 feet or so, visibility is gone and you need a light just to see a couple of feet in front of you,” Hart said in an interview. “Besides, I wouldn’t be crazy enough to dive the dam if there were man-eating fish down there.” No divers have ever been lost at the lake.
7) There are over 70,000 homes at the Lake of the Ozarks. Similarly, there’s just as many docks to match. And, of all the people who own two homes across the entire state of Missouri, 40% of them own one property on the Lake of the Ozarks.
8) Messages in a bottle are common. You might think of messages in a bottle as something of long-lost romantic gimmick, but for the Lake of the Ozarks, this is a semi-regular reality. In 2010, one family found a message in a bottle that dated back to 1972 floating along near the Bagnell Dam. Cleanup volunteers often find messages in a bottle.
9) The largest fish is the Lake of the Ozarks is the spoonbill (also called paddlefish), according to Greg Stoner at the Missouri Department of Conservation. Spoonbill feed on plankton and lurk in deeper parts of the water, so they don’t interfere with humans swimming at the surface. However, there is a Lake of the Ozarks record spoonbill catch, which is currently on display at Willmore Lodge in Lake Ozark. It was caught in 1998, and measures six feet, four inches long, weighing in at 135 pounds. A record catfish was also caught on the Lake, which weighed 92 pounds.
10) The Netflix original TV series, “Ozark,” was created by Bill Dubuque, who chose to set the store in the Lake of the Ozarks because he’d worked there as a teenager and “had a deep love for the place.” However, the Ozark scenes are shot in Atlanta, although they were modeled extensively after the Lake of the Ozarks.