From camping and hiking to horseback riding and water activities, Lake of the Ozarks State Park is a popular year-round destination for residents and visitors from across the globe.
As the largest in Missouri's state park system, Lake of the Ozarks State Park contains natural areas ranging from rugged, wooded areas to delicate cave formations and more than 80 miles of Lake frontage, according to MOStateParks.com. Many log buildings, rustic bridges and stone ditch-dams built by the Civilian Conservation Corp. are on the National Register of Historic Places and its natural and wild areas are filled with abundant native flora and fauna.
From new additions, natural resource updates and existing favorite features, learn about Lake of the Ozarks State Parks from its superintendent Bill Arnold, park interpreter Cindy Hall, with assistance from park specialist III Josie Barlow, in this week's "10 Questions."
For more information about Lake of the Ozarks State Park, call the park office at 573-348-2694 or visit www.mostateparks.com/park/lake-ozarks-state-park.
1. Tell me a bit about your background and how you got into the role of superintendent at the park, as well as about your staff?
Bill Arnold: I started working for the (state parks) in 1984, with Lake of the Ozarks Sate Park being the fourth park I have worked in. Being a superintendent was something I always wanted to do, and although it can be very demanding at times I really enjoy what I do here. We have a diverse staff with 10 park maintenance workers, four superintendents, three rangers and one interpreter. In addition we have several TSL (Tourist Season Laborer) doing interpretative programs/cave tours and also several doing a variety of regular maintenance. This is the fourth year for the SPYC (State Park Youth Corps) program; currently we have three and have been allocated 16 positions so anyone between the ages of 17 to 21 looking for summer work can fill out an application on line at MOSTATEPARKS.com. We also have three sets of campground hosts who volunteer to work in the campground and other areas in the park throughout the year. The parks most senior park employee has worked at this facility for 42 years. We also transport 10 inmates in four days a week to assist with maintenance projects.
2. How has the park attendance grown over the years?
Arnold: Lake of the Ozarks Sate Park's attendance has continued to grow especially in day users. The addition of air conditioning to the eight Outpost cabins and the two campground Yurts has increased visitors considerably, as well.
3. What seems to be some of the most heavily attended areas of the park? What are some of the most popular activities in the park?
Arnold: The busiest area is the Grand Glaize Beach area with a large marina and one of the largest boat launches on the Lake. It has the most popular swim beach, many picnic sites, a covered shelter and the Pa He Tsi area, which also has a boat ramp.
Popular activities include camping, boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, cave tours, group camping and picnicking.
4. What makes Lake of the Ozarks State Park unique compared to other state parks in Missouri?
Arnold: Its vast size makes Lake of the Ozarks State Park the largest state park in Missouri with just over 17,600 acres and 180 buildings. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is the only state park in Missouri with an equestrian concession and an airport located within its boundary. The airport is operated by the City of Osage Beach. The park has three different areas for the public to visit. The first area is in the main portion of the park off Highway 134 and has a 182-site modern campground with two Yurts, a concession operated campground store and marina, a concession operated equestrian stables, several day use areas with numerous picnic sites with table and grills, mountain biking, equestrian trails, hiking trails and an ADA trail, several day use areas, a covered shelter, several playgrounds and fishing docks. Also located on the Highway 134 side are four group camps - three are currently open for use with the largest able to accommodate up to 200 people and the smallest able to accommodate 44 campers. Pin Oak group camp, which lost its dining lodge to fire, has a new lodge nearing completion and soon will be open to the public. Pin Oak Hollow primitive campground is just prior to the camp entrance and is located on the water edge but only has a vault toilet and not drinkable water available. Another unique feature in this area is the eight Outpost cabins; these are rustic cabins located in the middle of the woods with electric and HVAC, wood stoves and a central restroom.
The second area, which is our busiest day use area, is Grand Glaize Beach and includes a large marina with slips and boats to rent, as well as a gas dock. This area has numerous picnic sites a swim beach and covered shelter, and a large ramp, which allows larger craft to launch. Also in this area is Pa He Tsi boat ramp with a large parking area.
The third area is on the south side of the park along McCubbins Point and Swinging Bridges roads, and includes a visitor center at Ozark Caverns where cave tours are given. This area also has four primitive camping areas, hiking and mountain biking trails. A very unique feature in this area is the Swinging Bridges located just above the Swinging Bridges Primitive campground and, although owned by Miller County, is visited by many park guests.
Throughout the park are 13 different trails totaling 54 miles. These include mountain biking trails, regular hiking trails, an equestrian trail, an ADA trail and even a self-guided aquatic trail for boaters.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park also has a lot of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) structures and historic districts and many unique features such as the erosion control stone work in the road ditches along portions of Highway 134 and numerous stone bridges.
5. Have there been any renovations, additions or updates to the park?
Arnold: The largest renovation project has been the rebuilding of the Pin Oak Lodge, which is close to completion. The lodge was built thanks to a grant, which was authorized by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. This community development block grant of $1.5 million was awarded to Pettis County to fund the project, which gave State Fair Community College students in Sedalia the opportunity to rebuild of the lodge as a training and education project. This cooperative agreement was made possible thanks to the support of Governor Nixon. The lodge was rebuilt very close to its original footprint, using the original 1930's blue prints as a guide, which had been preserved at the park office. The other buildings in the camp received new cedar sawn shingle roofs, new screens and canvas window covers as well as both central bathhouses shingled. Many smaller renovations have and are taking place including many roofs replaced, renovation of bathrooms in the Rising Sun and Clover Point group camps, and campground No. 2, the State Park Youth Corps (SPYC) program has painted all the buildings in three group camps in three years, including Clover Point, Rising Sun, Pin Oak, as well a portion of another camp and campground shower houses. One project just started is the renovation of the old Homestead cabin near the stables, which includes replacing timbers and the porch and split shingle roof. With the vast infrastructure and large number of buildings maintenance, upkeep and renovation is an ongoing process.
6. What are some of the ongoing natural resource projects you and/or your staff does in the park?
Cindy Hall: Lake of the Ozarks State Park is rich and diverse in natural resources. The park is currently engaged in the restoration of landscapes to the condition that existed prior to European settlers coming into the area, basically the restoration of open woodlands, glades and fens (a type of wetland). These include the Upland Flatwoods, a very rare community found on the broad flat ridges throughout the park. Once very common in central Missouri, this particular type of woodland is characterized by a soil composed of among other things a fragipan. This fragipan layer found about 23 inches underneath the surface restricts root development and doesn't allow water to pass through it. Unique plants and animals have become adapted to these unusual conditions. The park is actively in process of restoring close to 1,000 aces of this rare type of woodland. We also have ongoing restoration of the open chert woodlands, glades, bottomland woodlands and fens, which are typically found on the slopes, narrow ridges and along the small streams in the park. These account for an additional 1,000 acres of restoration. The park uses prescribed fire, cedar removal and thinning of hardwoods to rejuvenate these areas. Biologists have found that those areas that have been restored have more species diversity. Animals such as the Black-and-White Warbler, Sharp Shinned Hawk, Southern Flying Squirrel and plants such as Ridell's Goldenrod and Dwarf Hackberry's are just a few of the species that have benefitted from this restoration.
7. What are some of the annual programs or special events that take place in the park each year, and particularly what are some of those events that are coming up this summer and fall season?
Hall: Throughout the summer, the park offers many programs that showcase both the natural history and cultural history of the park. On Wednesdays, the park will be focusing on the cultural history of the park and we will have programs that include the CCC, the History of Lake Ozark State Park and the History of the Lake Area in general. On Thursday and Friday evenings, the park will offer programs on a variety of topics including caves, snakes, owls and bats, as well as other state parks in Missouri. On Saturday evenings a park naturalist will talk about the many different types of animals found in the park. Each Saturday will be different and the topic will vary from the birds found in the park, to mammals to reptiles and amphibians. On Sunday mornings throughout the summer, a Kids Hour will give kids of all ages a chance to explore the "wild side "of the park. Call the visitor center at Ozark Caverns for a listing of the times and topics offered.
The largest special event in the park is the Polar Plunge, held the last Saturday of February. This event provides a unique opportunity to support local Special Olympics athletes by walking, running or crawling into the frigid winter lake water. Proceeds benefit Special Olympics, Missouri's year-round program of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Many Fishing tournaments are held at Grand Glaize Beach and Pa He Tsi, mostly in the spring and fall with some held year round. This spring we had a large number of Boy Scouts volunteer to do a service day, replacing many of the split rail fences at the PB1 shelter and parking areas nearby also cleaning fire pits and other beneficial tasks.
8. What are the top three questions asked by visitors to the park?
Arnold: No. 1 - "Where's the swim beach?"; No. 2 - "Where's the Grand Glaize Beach?"; and No. 3 - "Where's Ozark Caverns?"
9. What is one of the top comments you have received from visitors or patrons to the park?
Arnold: Many visitors comment on how well the park is kept up and cared for, campers often complement the clean facilities and visitors to Ozark Caverns often compliment the tour guides on how much they enjoyed the tour and the educational value of the tour.
10. What would you say to encourage someone to utilize Lake of the Ozarks State Park?
Arnold: I encourage the public to visit Lake of the Ozarks Sate Park whether to hike, bike, canoe, camp, boat, fish, swim, picnic, stay in a Yurt or Outpost cabin, go horseback riding, take a cool cave tour, take in the Visitor Center or just to enjoy the beauty of nature; we have something for everyone.