The blue water of the Lake of the Ozarks sets the perfect backdrop for one of the most beautiful fall color tours in Missouri. The Lake stretches for nearly 100 miles, with 1,100 miles of shoreline—longer than the Pacific coastline of California.
It’s a great time of year for hiking, and many enjoy getting out and hitting the trails around the Lake that meander deep into the Missouri woods. The trails vary from easy to difficult.
Locals and tourists seeking a refreshing fall drive can take in the magnificent views from their car or motorcycle via a circle bridge tour. The Lake of the Ozarks has multiple bridges and one dam that span its waters. These water crossings are an interesting architectural attraction in themselves and they afford a majestic panoramic view of the Lake and fall colors without leaving the comfort of your car or motorcycle.
Here’s a look at the bridges you won’t want to miss for scenic autumn views around Lake of the Ozarks. Drivers can make a loop of the Lake by following the list below, beginning and ending in Lake Ozark.
The Bagnell Dam was constructed between 1929 and 1931 to generate electricity and make a reservoir for a lake tourist destination. The dam carries U.S. Business Route 54 (Bagnell Dam Boulevard) across its full length in Lake Ozark. For structural reasons, the highway underdeck was rebuilt in 2004. Eight water-wheel turbines connected to eight electrical generators and one small unit produce a maximum of 21,500 kilowatts of electricity each.
Hiking near Bagnell Dam
A scenic overlook above the dam gives a panoramic view of the Lake of the Ozarks and Bagnell Dam. There are also displays about the Lake and the Dam, including a picture from that location before the Dam was built, and an original turbine that powered the Dam at the overlook. Below the Dam you can enjoy a fish and bird observation area that Ameren Missouri has created to get visitors up close to the local wildlife. The road to the Overlook, Upper Power Plant Road, is located one-half mile north of Bagnell Dam.
History buffs will love the Willmore Lodge, the historic Adirondack white pine log building was built in 1930 for Union Electric. Early on the lodge was used as an administration building, although the plush amenities could have been used as a fancy entertainment facility. Currently, the lodge houses the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and the Bagnell Dam History Museum.
The Strip is a popular destination to walk along Bagnell Dam Blvd. just off the dam and take in shopping, a variety of good restaurants, boat rentals, a scenic cruise and more.
GRAND GLAIZE BRIDGE
The first Grand Glaize Bridge was a lost deck truss bridge over the Grand Glaize Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, on US 54, between Laguna Beach and Osage Beach. The original bridge was constructed in 1930-1931. A new parallel bridge was constructed in 1984.
Hiking near the Grand Glaize Bridge
The Lake of the Ozarks State Park has a little bit of something for everyone. Boat ramps, hiking, mountain biking, camping and more. The park has thousands of wooded acres with 12 trails that wind through the park. Cabins and yurts are available as well, as a lighted cave tour through the Ozark Caverns. Visitors can even see the fall colors on horseback by renting a horse in the park.
NIANGUA BRIDGE - HIGHWAY 54
The Niangua Bridge spans the Niangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, two miles west of Camdenton. The original bridge was built in 1932-33, and it was the very first bridge to span the Lake after it was filled in 1932. The original bridge was a scary ride when crossing at the same time as a semi-truck, due to narrow lanes. A new and wider bridge was constructed in 2000.
Hiking near the Niangua Bridge
The Ha Ha Tonka State Park consists of 3,600 acres of Ozark woodland, 16 miles of spectacular scenery and plenty of paved walkways, caves and mild to challenging hiking trails. Of special interest to history buffs are the remains of a turn-of-the-century mansion and mostly intact post office.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park is unique in the quality and number of its remarkable geological features. A natural bridge that reaches more than 100 feet into the air, a colosseum that is a steep-sided sinkhole measuring, 500 feet long and 300 feet wide, the Whispering Dell sink basin a 150 foot deep basin with two bluff shelters, several caves, 250 ft. high bluffs as well as the Ha Ha Tonka Spring, Missouri's twelfth largest spring which discharges approximately 58 million gallons of water daily.
NIANGUA BRIDGE - HIGHWAY 5
The Niangua Bridge on Highway 5 was first built as a deck truss bridge in 1935 http://bridgehunter.com/mo/camden/niangua-5/
That was demolished in 2003 and replaced by a modern style bridge which stands today. The Niangua Bridge is a gateway to the Westside of the Lake—often known as the “quiet side”—and offers expansive vistas along the Niangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks.
HURRICANE DECK BRIDGE
The Hurricane Deck Bridge crosses the Osage Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks on Highway 5 in Sunrise Beach. The original cantilevered deck truss Hurricane Deck Bridge was constructed from 1934 to 1936. That bridge was demolished and a new bridge was constructed in 2013.
Many locals say that the view of the bluffs off the right side of the Hurricane Deck Bridge, heading south on Highway 5 boasts the most magnificent fall colors in the entire Lake region.
THE COMMUNITY BRIDGE OF THE OZARKS
The Community Bridge of Lake of the Ozarks, a toll bridge, was built in 1998 to connect the Westside of the Lake of the Ozarks, Sunrise Beach, to the eastside in Lake Ozark. The view from the bridge is breathtaking, stretching out for miles on both sides. Traveling from the bridge on Route TT, Route MM, and Route F to Highway 5 is also a scenic pleasure featuring a rich abundance of Ozark woods and gorgeous fall colors along the roadway. Just remember to bring cash for the toll! (It's $3 in-season and $2 out-of-season, for passenger cars without a trailer.)
SIDE-TRIP: SWINGING BRIDGES
Another must-see bridge destination to visit is the old Swinging Bridge in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park on Highway 42 in Brumley. From Osage Beach take Highway 42 to Brumley, turn right on Swinging Bridges Road, in 1.5 miles you will cross Small Bridge, go a short distance past that, turn right and you are at the bridge. There is also camping available here.
This is a tiny portion of the beautiful fall fun that awaits visitors to the Lake of the Ozarks.
More fall foliage excursions:
Travel north on Highway 5 to Versailles and explore the fall colors in quaint Mennonite country, complete with horse-drawn carriages, old fashioned general stores and a plethora of Mennonite craft and specialty shops.
Take Highway 5 to Highway 7 North, to the Fiery Forks Conservation Area in Roach and experience fall on the Niangua River.
See the scenic bridge in the fall over the Niangua River on Route J, off Highway 7 North, in Roach. Here you will also see a one lane bridge and beautiful bluffs and Ozark farm land.
Travel Highway 5 to Highway 7 North, and follow signs to the Truman Dam area in Warsaw. The dam offers a visitor’s center, a historic cabin, parks, hiking trails, boating and more.
Go south on Highway 5 to Lebanon and view fall in the Bennett Springs State Park where there is a trout hatchery, a natural spring and a premier trout fishing river. There are also plenty of trails, canoeing, a lodge and a restaurant that will even cook the trout after you catch them in the river that runs through the park, now that is fresh.