The Creation of the Lake of the Ozarks

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If it wasn't for Bagnell Dam, you wouldn't be able to enjoy a vacation at the Lake of the Ozarks, because there would be no lake! It's not only an amazing story, but also an incredible feat, especially for the time that it was built. Lake Ozark Vacations found some of the history to share with you. It will make a great story to relay to your family or friends on your way to the lake!

photo from Wikipedia
The 1st Attempt Failed
Bagnell Dam was built by the Union Electric Light & Power Company in 1929, and they still own it to this day under the name AmerenUE. It impounds the Osage River to form the gorgeous Lake of the Ozarks, but the dam we see today was not the first attempt to dam the Osage River. 

Entrepreneur Ralph Street gathered enough money in 1912 to begin the concept of building a dam. His plan would have made a smaller lake with no major tributaries, meaning that the Gravois, Grand Glaize, and Niangua arms of the lake would have only been short, shallow coves. That would have ruined a lot of the fun we get to have out there today! 

Street began building the roadways and railroad tracks leading to the area, along with some support structures. Financial difficulties caused him to stop the project in 1926. 

Bagnell Dam Begins
Union Electric had the engineering firm Stone & Webster design a new concrete gravity dam to be named Bagnell Dam. It was named after the town that originally stood there, which happened to be named after William Bagnell, the man who platted the town in 1883. 

Construction started on August 6, 1929. Many were worried that the stock market crash that year would kill the project, but on the contrary, it drew many families to the area. Lots of jobs were waiting to be filled to build the dam. Construction was finished just under 2 years later in April 1931. 

Before it was completely finished, they began filling it on February 2, 1931. At a rate of about 1.5 feet per day, the water didn't reach spillway elevation until 78 days later on May 20, and it wasn't entirely full until the spring of 1932. 

photo of Bagnell Dam being filled from 
Fun Facts

  • Bagnell Dam cost $30 million dollars to build. 
  • At the time it was built, it was the largest man-made lake in the United States. That title is now held by Lake Oahe, which begins in South Dakota and stretches into North Dakota.  
  • The dam is 148 feet tall, 2,543 feet long, and includes a 520 foot long spillway with a 511 foot long power station. 
  • Nearly 10,000 new jobs were created with the building of the dam, and in a little over 2 years, some 20,500 workers came and went. 
  • At one point in time, about 4,600 craftsmen and laborers were working on the dam round the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  
  • The Lake of the Ozarks has a surface area of 54,000 acres.
  • The lake is 92 miles long from end to end, and it has over 1,150 miles of shoreline. 
  • The serpentine shape the water makes gave it the nickname "The Magic Dragon." 

photo from Wikipedia
Thanks to Bagnell Dam, mid-Missouri is home to an incredible vacation destination where you can take advantage of all sorts of fun water activities, like boating, skiing, tubing, wakeboarding, stand-up paddle boarding, swimming, and more. The massive shoreline provides lots of space for all kinds of wonderful waterfront parks, restaurants, bars, and other attractions, not to mention all of the incredible activities to take part in the towns surrounding the lake. 

If you'd like to learn more about the history of Bagnell Dam, plus find out about everything the lake area has to offer, visit Willmore Lodge in Lake Ozark just up the road from Bagnell Dam and the historic Bagnell Dam Strip. Willmore Lodge is home to the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, a gorgeous lake view, and an intriguing Bagnell Dam History Museum.  

photo from Willmore Lodge Facebook page
The best way to truly enjoy a vacation to the lake area is to stay for a few days. Our Lake of the Ozarks vacation rentals allow you to spend a lot of time in a comfortable environment that's like a home away from home rather than a cramped hotel room. The knowledgeable reservation specialists at Lake Ozark Vacations can even assist you in finding fun things to do while you are here. If a lake vacation is in your future, stay with us!  

Serving the entire Lake of the Ozarks area.  1-800-237-3434

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