Missouri Lakes Have Something for Everyone

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Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism
Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism
Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism

Twelve weeks.

That’s about how long summer lasts. Starting with Memorial Day weekend and running through most of August, the summertime months are built for outdoor activities and making memories.

While the season’s stay can seem brief, you can cram many hours of adventure into those 12 weeks at Missouri’s recreational lakes. These lakes have the usual activities, but they might also have some that surprise you! Water or land, expected or unexpected, Missouri’s recreational lakes provide unlimited fun for the whole family.

Here’s a look at some amazing Show-Me State lakes and their activities.

Clearwater Lake

In southeast Missouri, near the cities of Piedmont and Ellington, Clearwater Lake covers about 1,600 acres and is noted for its fishing. During summer months, fish for crappie and catfish. Nearby places to visit include the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and Sam A. Baker State Park. Plus, Peck Ranch Conservation Area has wildlife and offers elk tours. The lake has several campsites surrounding it as well as small resorts with swimming pools. Additionally, the lake’s local floating marina has what you need for your time at the lake.

Harry S Truman Reservoir (Truman Lake)

Named after the only Missourian ever elected president and located close to Warsaw and Clinton, Truman Lake – the largest in Missouri in terms of acreage – is great for fishing. It has abundant populations of crappie, bass and walleye. At the nearby Harry S Truman State Park, stay overnight at a campsite. They have a variety to choose from to meet your family’s camping needs.

For a spectacular view of the Truman Dam and Reservoir, visit the Truman Dam Visitors Center that sits atop Kaysinger Bluff. The observation deck offers sightings of waterfowl, bald eagles and turkey vultures. Inside the center, learn about the history of the Osage Arm of Lake of the Ozarks Valley from pre-civilization to modern day.

A person in a yellow kayak makes their way across the blue, rippled water. Green, lush trees line the bank and there is a clear, blue skyline.
Grab your fishing pole and kayak and head out to Harry S Truman Reservoir, Truman Lake.

Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks is located in central Missouri. It meanders through several cities including Osage Beach, Lake Ozark and Camdenton. It’s one of Missouri’s largest lakes with more than 1,100 miles of shoreline. Popular for boating and fishing, the lake area is also a well-known golf destination.

Lake of the Ozarks State Park and Ha Ha Tonka State Park neighbor the area. Both parks have hiking and spectacular views of the water, and the former has cave tours at Ozark Caverns. Bridal Cave is another must-see. Book the lantern tour and learn about the cave’s history in a unique and mysterious setting.

A boat cruises across the water at Lake of the Ozarks. Green, lush trees ling the banks in the background. The sun is setting, creating a yellow and pink afterglow.
Visit Lake of the Ozarks and rent a spot on the water. Cruise through the water for summer fun and a summer breeze.

Lake Pomme de Terre

A peaceful, 7,800-acre lake in central Missouri near Pittsburg and Hermitage, Lake Pomme de Terre is well-known among anglers seeking muskie and walleye. There are two public swimming beaches, hiking trails and approximately 240 campsites. Some other lodging options include: three yurts, four camper cabins, one full-service marina cabin and a lake house.

For another activity, book tickets to the Lucas Oil Speedway and watch competitive cars race around the track. End your day with dinner at The Crappie Hole, a local favorite on the lake’s northside that offers affordable, traditional eats.

There are clouds in the blue sky and lush green trees line the bank. The water is calm. A fisherman with a red shirt is standing on the edge of his motorboat, casting his line into the water.
Enjoy a relaxing day of fishing on this spacious lake.

Lake Taneycomo

A popular destination for trout fishing, Lake Taneycomo has about 40 miles of shoreline. The lake is stocked with more than 700,000 rainbow and brown trout each year.

On its winding path, the lake runs through the heart of downtown Branson. The main attraction in downtown is Branson Landing. Visitors can dine, shop and enjoy views of the water. The Landing is family-friendly – play games at Arcade City or get a photo taken at Buster’s Old Time Photos.

The sky is light blue and pink as the sun rises. There is a large bluff with trees covering most of it and a house on the bluff. Below, the blue water ripples and fog covers the lake. In the fog, there is a small motorboat.
Take a boat out in the morning and enjoy the relaxing and peaceful atmosphere while watching the sunrise.
A spotted trout is reaching out from below the water with its mouth open. There is a fishing line with bait on it, and the trout's mouth is nearly about to swallow the bait.
Fish from a boat or from the bank and you’re likely to catch something. There are over 700,000 trout in these waters each year.

Lake Wappapello

Nestled near a section of the Mark Twain National Forest is Lake Wappapello. It is an 8,400-acre lake that attracts anglers seeking largemouth bass and catfish. Nearby cities include Puxico, Williamsville and Poplar Bluff.

If you want to stay by the lake, Lake Wappapello State Park has a modern campground with cabins, plus rustic camper cabins. Land activities include hiking, backpacking and horseback riding. Mingo National Wildlife Refuge is another attraction in the area. The refuge has 21,592 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, cypress-tupelo swamp, marsh and upland forest ecosystems.  

There are paved roads weaving throughout tall green trees. There is a blue lake at the edge of the bank, behind the trees and paved road. There is a black, large truck attached to an RV, parked beside the water. There are picnic tables and grills scattered throughout the area.
Enjoy fishing from the banks, camping overnight and grilling food. This is a camper’s paradise!

Long Branch Lake

Located near Macon, Long Branch Lake is an excellent spot to fish for striped bass and channel catfish. Covering 2,400 acres, the lake has abundant recreational options and includes a sandy swimming beach in Long Branch State Park. There is also a marina store for your fishing, camping, boating and beachgoing needs. The park’s modern campground makes overnight stays comfortable for the whole family.

The Maples Repertory Theatre is a nearby activity where viewers can see professional, live theatre shows. In downtown Macon, the West Winery is housed in an 1880’s building. You can watch the wine-making process from the wine tasting room, and maybe even help with the process yourself.

Mark Twain Lake

There’s plenty of space to boat and swim, as well as fish for crappie, at Mark Twain Lake as it expands across 19,000 acres. There are three shaded campgrounds with full hookup and electrical sites, and the public Spalding Beach is a popular place for families. Named after the area’s most famous resident, the lake is near the cities of Perry, Monroe City and Florida.

Just minutes from the lake, Mark Twain Lake Jellystone Park has a waterpark, swimming pool and mini-golf. Visit nearby Hannibal and learn about the town that inspired some of Mark Twain’s greatest works. In his memory, visitors can go to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, followed by a visit to the Mark Twain Cave (featured in some of his works!).

Two people sit in lawn chairs on the sand-covered bank. The tide is coming in and covering their feet. In the lake, there are children swimming and people floating. In the distance, there are lush, green trees lining the bank, and wispy clouds float throughout the blue sky.
This lake offers boating, fishing and swimming. Sit on the side of the lake and soak in the rays as you watch your family play.

Mozingo Lake

An often-overlooked gem, Mozingo Lake is a 1,000-acre northwest lake near Maryville with activities for the whole family: boating, fishing (the lake has good populations of bass and crappie), horseback riding, hiking, hunting and golf. For an overnight stay, book a family cabin, hook up your R.V. or camp in a tent.

For an afternoon outing, take a short drive to Conception Abbey, a Benedictine monastery that has existed over 150 years. Another local destination is the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Walk into the Adoration Chapel and you will be in awe. It’s a Romanesque-style chapel with mosaics spanning the walls. You can also visit the Relic Chapel; it houses over 550 first and second class relics of saints.

Smithville Lake

Near Kansas City, Smithville Lake spans 7,000-plus acres and has 175 miles of shoreline. The area surrounding the lake has campgrounds, biking trails and golf courses. Mountain biking is also a popular off-the-water adventure; there are 11.5 miles of rugged, single-track trails.

One local point of interest is the Shoal Creek Living History Museum. The museum has twenty-one structures with thirteen authentic 19th century buildings dating from 1807-1885. If you like dining and shopping, head to the Smithville Main Street District.

The sun sets on the lake and the sky has a pink afterglow. In the distance, there is a town spanning the banks. There is a cape that extends out into the water, and a community with homes and paved roads line the banks. There are two wave runners zipping through the water.
Smithville Lake offers camping, biking and golfing. Rent a wave runner for a day in the water.

Stockton Lake

Stockton Lake is located near Stockton and Bolivar and is nearly 25,000 acres. It is known as an excellent sail-boating destination. A generous and nearly-perpetual breeze from the southwest propels sailboats across the lake.  If you’re not a sailing expert, don’t let that deter you from enjoying a day on the water. The marina at Stockton State Park has an ASA-Certified sailing school where you can learn to take the helm.

Overnight stays at Stockton State Park range from lodges to campsites to cabins. Another nearby campground can be found at Hulston Mill Historical Park. The featured mill is said to have sent flour to units of the Union Army that were stationed in Springfield, Missouri.

The sky is blue and has large white clouds throughout it. In the background, there is shoreline that has many large, green trees. There is a couple on a sailboat sailing, and the boat has waves beside it from the current.
Stockton Lake is known for sail boating. Come and experience the breeze on your face while you pass other sailboats in the water.

Table Rock Lake

With 800 miles of shoreline and spanning 45,000 acres, there’s abundant room for recreation on Table Rock Lake. Situated near Branson and Kimberling City, the lake is a popular spot for bass fishing. Branson’s live shows, Silver Dollar City and WonderWorks museum (a family-friendly STEM experience) are a short drive away.

If you have a hard time getting your crew off the water, embrace the lake life and stay in a houseboat. Five Star Houseboat Vacations in Kimberling City offers boats that sleep 10, 14 or 16 people. With shared and private bedrooms and all the amenities you need, you will have a supremely comfortable stay.

An aerial view overlooks the lake. In the distance are rolling hills with dark green trees. The sky is light blue and the sun is beginning to set. In the middle, there is a little island with green trees on it and a bank. There is a person standing in their boat not too far from the island.
There’s plenty of space for recreational activities on Table Rock Lake.

More Unique Activities Near the Lake

Scuba Diving

A square boat with people glides across the dark blue water in an underground cave. There are large pillar-shaped rocks spread throughout the cave.
Missouri has some of the coolest (physically and aesthetically) caves. The experience is a must-do bucket list item in the Cave State.

An underground marvel, Billion Gallon Lake, can be found inside Bonne Terre Mine. The mine, which was once the world’s largest producer of lead ore, is now a scuba diving playground with staff-guided trails. Any water-certified diver can explore the watery maze. Table Rock Lake also offers scuba diving so you can examine the world under the water’s surface.

Yurt Lodging

A pink yurt is surrounded by green, lush trees. The yurt has a wrap-around porch that leads to a paved parking spot.
Rent a yurt for a unique, overnight stay.

Interested in a unique, outdoor camping experience? Yurts are a cool, comfortable alternative. A yurt is a weatherproof, tent-like structure, and Missouri State Parks have several, including one premium yurt available for rent at Table Rock State Park. Pomme de Terre State Park and Lake of the Ozarks State Park also offer this overnight option, and all yurts have heat and electricity (plus, some are pet-friendly).

Cruise Around

A singer with long, blonde hair and red shirt is standing in the middle of a stage. She is singing into a microphone and blue lights surround and spotlight her.
Book a showboat cruise and enjoy an array of entertainment.

Spend time indoors, on the water. Celebration Cruises at Lake of the Ozarks offers sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises and candlelight cruises. Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake serves up a three-course meal and a variety performance for your dining entertainment.