A Big Water Playground in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Hike, Bike...and Spelunk!
When it comes to natural attractions, Lake of the Ozarks State Park is the place to go. Missouri's largest state park has two public beaches and hiking/biking trails. Plus, it's free! There is a small fee for boat launches, horseback riding tours at Ozark Homestead Riding Stable, and spelunking. Yes, spelunking!
Didn't you know? Missouri is "the Cave State." So it's not so surprising to find three big caverns near the lake, each offering a cool break (50-60 degrees) from summer heat.
- Ozark Caverns. Your little spelunkers will squeal with glee when they spot bats and salamanders during a hand-held lantern tour of these impressive caves, located inside the State Park. Angel's Shower -- a stream of water that shoots out of the cave ceiling -- is another crowd-pleaser on the tour.
- Jacob's Cave. At the north end of Lake of the Ozarks, Jacob's Cave is the area's largest. Prehistoric Mastodon bones, reflecting pools, and the world's largest geode are highlights of the mile-long tour.
- Bridal Cave. This cavern, tucked away at the south end of the lake, can be reached by boat or car. Whichever way you come, stop at the dock first, to see the giant carp. Feeding them a 25-cent bag of breadcrumbs is bargain entertainment for toddlers. Inside the cave, you may stumble across a wedding in progress; some 2,000 couples have tied the knot here, a tradition supposedly started by the Osage Indians (spectators are welcome, by the way).
While you're in the "south," make a half-day visit to Ha Ha Tonka State Park. There's no beach, but you can picnic in the shade of a ruined, 60-room castle on a bluff overlooking Ha Ha Tonka Spring, or "laughing waters" in the Osage Indian tongue. Sinkholes, small caves, and a 100-foot natural bridge round out the scenic highlights here.