In a matter of days, COVID-19 has changed everything. And while plenty of businesses have temporarily closed and events have been canceled or rescheduled, the Lake of the Ozarks offers COVID-proof opportunities to enjoy what people enjoy here, year-round: the great outdoors.
Here are five great ways to experience the Lake area, while still practicing social distancing:
1. Go Boating
Boating is actually the perfect social distancing activity! As long as you've got less than 10 folks aboard, you're still within CDC and state guidelines, and the fresh air and sunshine will do a body good. A few things to note:
-It's a good idea to stick with family or other people that you're already frequently around during this social distancing period.
-Most Lakefront places are not yet reopened from the winter (or have delayed their reopening due to the coronavirus), so you'll probably want to bring aboard anything you'll be eating/drinking, and more strategically plan your fuel usage. (A few marinas are still open, and several others are available to fuel up your boat if you call before arriving.) Click here to view all Lake area marinas who stayed open during the winter, or only closed briefly:
With Fall Harbor Hop behind us, the season has come to a close for many marinas at the Lake …
2. Go Fishing
Yes, this could be a subset of "Go Boating," but plenty of good fishing happens from docks and shorelines too! Whether you're drift-fishing the Osage River, or working a crappie bed, fishing is another ideal social distancing activity. Plus, the Missouri Department of Conservation has waived all fishing permit requirements through April 15.
A few reminders:
-Always wear a life jacket/PFD! Even if you're fishing from a dock -- the Lake is still hovering around 50 degrees, which can be fatal if you fall in. The National Center for Cold Water Safety says all water below 70 degrees should be treated with caution. Cold shock (where you lose the ability to control breathing and begin gasping/hyperventilating) has its maximum effect in water between 50-60 degrees -- in other words, you can drown in 50-degree water as readily as you can in 33-degree water.
-Socially isolate -- with a buddy! Fishing alone, particularly on a boat, can be risky, since a fall in the water can be deadly without someone to help you get back in the boat or get to shore. And with two people on a 20-foot bass boat, it should be easy even to keep a 6-foot distance.
While you're waiting for a bite, check out this article in Shore Magazine's 2020 issue, "Fishing The Lake, 12 Months A Year." Seasoned angler and outdoors writer Brent Frazee talked with local pros and dug up a few memories in this fun piece that's part how-to guide, part nostalgia.
3. Go Hiking
Open-air activities are good for the body and soul, and allow you to keep a bit of distance between other people while still enjoying some company. At the Lake, a few early blooming trees have already begun showing color, and the redbuds will be glowing in a matter of days. Also, for mushroom hunters, morel season is likely only a week or two away: hunters are finding early flushes of them in Missouri's southernmost counties already.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park: the obvious choice -- it doesn't need to be very warm to enjoy some fresh air and even work up a little sweat! Walking the 8 million (ok, it's only 316, but it feels like more) wooden steps from the castle down to the gorgeous blue springs, and then back up... it's a perfect way to enjoy the budding trees of spring and beautiful views of the Lake.
Lake Of The Ozarks State Park: several trails offer varying lengths and terrain. The upside: this time of year, you don't need to worry about ticks and chiggers. The downside: make sure you wear boots, because it's the soggiest time of year. Start at the Trail Center. Click here to view a map.
Lake Area Municipal Parks:
Peanick Park (Osage Beach, Hwy 42)
Osage Beach City Park
Camdenton City Park
4. Go Golfing
Another option that lends itself to plenty of space between players (depending on how you handle the golf cart seating): golfing! The Lake of the Ozarks has inarguably (no, you actually cannot argue this point) the best range of golf courses anywhere in Missouri. From the challenging and picturesque Old Kinderhook course designed by Tom Weiskopf, to the eminently playable and family-friendly (and also beautifully scenic) Lake Valley Golf, to private clubs like Porto Cima
Lake area golf courses are open and many have made a point of reassuring the public that they're taking extra precautions, including things like removing sand trap rakes, raising cup depths (so you don't have to remove the flag), allowing walking all day, and providing food and drinks to-go.
Call first, of course. Here's more info about 13, public, Lake area golf courses:
And here are a few tips from Golf World about playing golf safely during the coronavirus outbreak. www.golfdigest.com/story/can-you-play-golf-amid-coronavirus-concerns-with-proper-precautions-yes
5. Go Disc Golfing
The cheaper, no-tee-time-needed option! The Lake area has two excellent, publicly accessible disc golf courses. It's easy to stay 6 feet from everyone when you're disc golfing, since any closer may put you in range of a thrower's arm! So do some stretching, dust off those discs (or go buy some at Wal-Mart or Dick's: a long-range disc and a putter is all you need to get started), and hit the course!
Lake Area Disc Golf Courses (click for directions):