Water Sports, Family Fun, Quiet Fishing, Orange Sunsets and More
Growing up in the “Land of the Ozarks” had to offer a certain amount of inspiration for the band, Ozark Mountain Daredevils. After a recent visit to Central Missouri, we could certainly relate to the lyrics of their song. We could even add a verse or two of our own as we spent a week in and around the Lake of the Ozarks – the largest man-made lake in North America. The state motto – “Show Me” – was fulfilled time and time again …
It started with a gentle prodding by Marjorie Beenders, a tourism maven in the state who kept asking when we were going to come and visit every time we saw her. After doing a little research on the lake and the region, we couldn’t take it any longer. We graciously accepted her invitation to check out “the best recreational lake in the nation.” That was after a national vote conducted by two separate groups – USA Today and 10 Best. It would live up to its name.
After a week that was jam-packed with activities, where do you even start? At the beginning of course! We left Lockport in a 2016 Chevy Tahoe LTZ packed to the gills. We picked up Joe and Laurie Calvert of Oregon City, Oregon, at the St. Louis airport along the way, adding a few more bags of luggage. The drive from New York was roughly 17 hours and it was a comfort ride all the way. We were impressed with the various alerts on the vehicle including the blind side zone that flashed warning in our mirrors and gave us gentle vibrations whenever some threat became available on the road or in parking lots. More on the vehicle later.
We arrived at Lake Ozark and our first destination, the Alhonna Resort and Marina (www.TheAlhonnaResort.com) in the middle of a thunderstorm. It had been so long since we had seen rain, we didn’t mind the drops as we hurriedly unloaded the vehicle. Timing is everything as the rain stopped long enough to finish the job. After a great breakfast outside at the in-house “Bobbers” Restaurant, we headed out to Willmore Lodge (www.willmorelodge.com) at Bagnell Dam – where it all began for Lake of the Ozarks. Along the way, we continued to find New York connections, like the fact that this lodge was an Adirondack-style lodge that was now a museum documenting the formation of the lake back in 1931 (a lodge built in 1930).
The dam (that created the lake) was actually built from 1929 to 1931, employing some 40,000 people along the way – at a time when the country desperately needed it. Workers from every state, as well as from 9 countries, were employed, making it the largest and last major dam in America built entirely with private financing. To make this project happen, 22 different towns and villages had to be destroyed and relocated. Approximately 30,000 acres of timber land had to be cleared. Over 900 miles of fences and numerous buildings had to be removed. A total of 32 cemeteries were moved to higher ground along with other scattered graves.
When the dam was finally completed, the Osage River provided most of the water. It took three months to fill up. The end result was a lake that was 94 miles long, providing 1,375 miles of shoreline. Average depth is 60 feet. It is almost entirely privately owned as far as the shoreline is concerned, allowing residents to build properties within a few feet of the water. Alhonna was a good example of that, allowing us to sit on a porch overlooking the water … and fish if we wanted to. In the neighboring cabin, we watched them fish off a similar porch and reel in bass and bluegill on a consistent basis.
After a little driving around to get our bearings, we headed back to Alhonna to take a paddleboat out for a couple of hours. Joe and I opted to not take fishing rods for this trip because of the funny looks we received from the ladies when we mentioned trolling. We also made arrangements to take out a fishing pontoon boat the next morning to really get a feel for the lake from the water and do a little fishing along the way.
The next day started with another breakfast at Bobbers following by gathering up all the gear for the pontoon boat ride. Since it was early morning, the lake hadn’t really come alive with activity yet. It was peaceful as we motored 10 miles up the lake. As I rigged up a rod for Joe, I sent a crankbait toward a downed tree along the shoreline – explaining the use of the spinning rod along the way. It took about 15 seconds to catch my first fish, a nice largemouth that hit a new Berkley bait that mimicked a small shad, the top forage in the lake. It proved to be the winner for the daily scratch-off contests that filled our time in Missouri.
We motored to different areas around the lake, hoping to find some active fish along the way. Magnificent homes stood out as sentinels to the lake. We all agreed it was a beautiful area with lots of potential. It should be on everyone’s bucket list of places to visit. In fact, Sandy went so far as to say that if we won the lottery, we would be getting a home here.
Alhonna Resort has everything you need to spend some quality time with family and friends. The facility offers up a full service marina with over 25 rental boats – everything from bass boats and pontoon fishing boats to ski boats, pleasure pontoons and deck boats. Non-motorized water craft is also part of the mix including kayaks, paddleboards and the paddleboats we sampled. In addition, there’s a nice pool, both indoors and out, to cool off in – something we needed for the week we were there. And if you show up when the weather is a little cooler, they even have an enclosed fishing dock with wood stoves! It seems as though Mike and Sheryl Elia have thought of everything in the 37 years that they’ve been running the operation.
Our cabin made us feel right at home with a full kitchen and more. It was clean and comfortable, the hospitality was top notch.
Our final evening at Alhonna was a light show offered up by Mother Nature herself, as a spectacular lightning display lit the skies all around us. Three nights went much too quickly and we wanted to stay longer, but like we mentioned earlier, we were just scratching the surface. It was time to move on. We’ll continue with part two next week.
In the meantime, check out the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau’s website at www.FunLake.com; 1-800-FUN-LAKE. We were singing our way to the second phase of our journey …