Dick Morris and his wife Marilyn live on the 38 Mile Marker of Lake of the Ozarks. That’s far enough away from the busiest parts of the Lake that they can call it the “quiet life.” But it’s close enough to popular Lakefront hotspots like Captain Ron’s Bar & Grill at the 34.5 Mile Marker, Bear Bottom Resort at the 38 Mile Marker, and Big Dick’s at the 47 Mile Marker, that they still see their fair share of boats cruising by.
That’s no problem: Dick and Marilyn love the Lake life. A homebuilder for decades in Phoenix, Ariz., Dick capitalized on the booming real estate industry in that city during the 1970s and 1980s. “Our busiest year, I built 64 homes,” he recalls. But then everything changed. Marilyn had a stroke.
“We never asked, ‘How much do you have to have before you call it quits?’” Dick explained. The stroke helped them answer that question. The Morrises bought land way off the beaten path, at the end of a point on Lake of the Ozarks. The property was a strange one, though: it had a long finger protruding into the channel. From an aerial view, this bend in the Lake looks rather like a whale with an open mouth… and a small horn extending from its nose. In other words, a narwhal.
The seemingly random peninsula jutting off the point has roots in the formation of the Lake, Dick says. Ameren—the electric company that built Bagnell Dam in the 1930s—told Dick the early dredging of the nearby coves and channel left a large, long pile of rock and soil. He could just leave it alone, Ameren said, and the Lake’s waves would eventually wash it all away.
“No way,” Dick chuckled. “I paid a lot of money for that property!” He wasn’t interested in letting his real estate disappear. So Dick put a seawall and rip rap around the peninsula. The 30-foot-wide stretch of land became a little park: manicured with green grass and ornamental trees planted in a row.
Dick built their Lake house there on the mainland, just like he’d built so many homes before, and the Morrises began enjoying the Lake life. The peninsula, Dick says, has served as a natural wave break: it shields his dock (and his neighbors’ docks too) from some rough water—at least from one direction. But a trend began to emerge. Night boating can be a peaceful affair, but every so often, a boater coming around the bend at night would hug the shoreline too closely, and the Morrises would hear a “BOOM!”
The night can also be host to strange sights on the Lake. Dick recalls one incident: a guy and several women were enjoying a raucous night: an after-dark boat ride and a bit of skinny-dipping nearby. Dick was in bed when he heard the sound of the collision. “I jumped out of bed, and told my wife to call the Water Patrol,” he recalled. When he ran out to the peninsula, he found all four people apparently unharmed, and seemingly unfazed. “They were there in the water laughing… and the boat was sinking,” he said.
Dick doesn’t know how many boats have hit that peninsula. It was pretty infrequent… but after it happened several times over the years, he decided the spot needed a time-tested nautical tool to warn boaters of the coming shoreline: a lighthouse. He built the lighthouse himself, and the light shines from dusk until 2 a.m., though he wonders if he should keep it shining even later. He installed a “very loud Amtrak train horn” in the lighthouse. Because why not? “It’s pretty cool,” he says.
Since the lighthouse went up, Dick says boaters seem to be noticing the peninsula more; there hasn’t been a collision in at least three years. And that’s not for a lack of boats: Lakefront establishments report business is as good as—or better than—it’s ever been.
The Lake of the Ozarks’ littlest lighthouse is serving boaters like its coastal predecessors have for centuries. Meanwhile, it’s made the Morrises’ peninsula even more picturesque: a unique view as they enjoy the mostly-quiet-but-occasionally-odd Lake life.