As a kid, I spent many summers carousing on and around Beaver Lake in Northwest Arkansas, more interested in boys than water sports or the pristine nature around me; nonetheless, the rugged beauty and fun times stayed with me and I sojourn to our family lake cottage on Table Rock Lake several times a year. Summers are filled with fishing for the elusive walleye, eliciting screams from kids on bouncing rubber rafts trailing behind the boat, and feeling the power of one in a kayak as it cuts through dark water.

family fishing on lake taneycomo

Fishing on Lake Taneycomo; (c) Branson CVB

If you’re a fishing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, boating, water skiing, wake boarding, or SUP enthusiast that yearns for a watering hole where you can soar and splash unfettered by crowds, there’s a special place full of lakes in what is known as the Ozarks.

The charm of the Ozarks is its relatively unknown location in what I like to call Middle America, otherwise known as the Midwest. For the geographically challenged, this area of the U.S. is west of the great Mississippi River. Unless you grew up in the Midwest, this region is largely overlooked as a vacation destination, yet has so much to offer nature, sports, and adventure seekers.

girl standup paddle boarding on lake of the ozarks, missouri

SUP on Lake of the Ozarks; (c) Lake of the Ozarks CVB

The Ozark Mountain region stretches southwest from St. Louis, Missouri into northwest Arkansas and just a tad into southern Illinois, southeastern Kansas, and Oklahoma. When you Google ‘things to do in Branson’, Springfield (MO), Lake of the Ozarks, and Eureka Springs, AR will appear along with images of sheer walls of limestone bluffs, spectacular waterfalls, and dense forests as far as the eye can see.

There are five humongous lakes in the Ozarks: Beaver, Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Taneycomo, and Lake of the Ozarks, as well as America’s first national river: the Buffalo River. Here, you are surrounded by natural beauty far from the throngs of humanity encountered in many of our national parks. In the relative solitude of the Ozarks, you can actually feel like one with nature, refreshing your body, mind, and soul.

riverboat at sunset on table rock lake, the ozark

Riverboat on Table Rock Lake; (c) Harrison Sutcliffe

About the Lakes of the Ozarks

Beaver Lake offers 28,000 surface acres of water recreation opportunities and camping in northwest Arkansas. Anglers enjoy year-round fishing for large and small mouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, stripers, bream, crappie, and catfish. Plus, the bone-chilling waters of the White River below Beaver Dam are the perfect habitat for rainbow and brown trout. Numerous campgrounds to choose from.

Table Rock Lake is renowned among anglers for its bass fishing, Table Rock possesses 43,000 acres of water, miles of tree-lined shores, beaches, a marina, and is a popular stop for scuba divers.

Bull Shoals Lake stretches along Arkansas’s northern border and into southern Missouri. Bull Shoals Dam forms Bull Shoals Lake and is the largest lake in Arkansas with 45,440 acres of surface water. Anglers are lured by lunker bass, catfish, crappie, and bream. Plenty of activities for water sports enthusiasts as well as 103 campsites.

Lake Taneycomo is the smallest of the three lakes in the Branson area. Taneycomo has just 40 miles of shoreline, but for trout anglers it is one of the best trout fishing lakes in the country due to its cold waters and annual stocking of three-quarters of a million rainbow and brown trout.

Lake of the Ozarks is a 17,441 acre playground that lies just to the south of Osage Beach. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is Missouri’s largest with 85 miles of shoreline, two public beaches, and boat launching areas, as well as hiking trails, horseback riding stable, and four organized youth camps.

Park facilities at all the lakes include a variety of tent and RV camping facilities, picnic areas, standard pavilions, playgrounds, and hiking trails.

fishing on Lake of the Ozarks Missouri

Picture perfect fishing spot on the Lake of the Ozarks; (c) Lake of the Ozarks CVB

Plan Your Trip to the Ozarks

Explore Northwest Arkansas
Buffalo River National Park
Ozark Mountain Region
Branson Visitors Bureau
Lake of the Ozarks Visitors Bureau


Outfitters in the Ozarks

River Run Outfitters | Carolyn Parker was the first female outfitter of the year for Orvis a decade ago, Branson, MO.
White River Outfitters | Bill Babler has been fishing the lakes around Branson for 30 years.
Super Dave’s Paddle Craft Adventures | SUP in a no-wake cove on Lake of the Ozarks.
Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock & Marina | boat and houseboat rentals, scuba equipment rentals,
guided fishing tours on Bull Shoals Lake.
Trigger Gap Outfitters | Family-owned outfitter with canoes, kayaks, rafts, SUP in Eureka Springs, AR.

For more summer vacation ideas, you might like to read Best Beaches in the World for 2018 and Best Family Summer Vacation Destinations for 2018.