Sometimes, it seems that the Show Me State never runs out of surprises to show off. Missouri boasts one of the country’s most desirable cities, outstandingly delicious regional cuisine, national monuments integral to the American ethos — and now, it seems that Missouri is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations for outdoor recreation. Indeed, Missouri is a beautiful state with epic landscapes, and just a short trip outside any city will take you into the breathtaking wilds. Yet, the best way to escape Missouri’s stifling summer heat is to head to one of its myriad lakes, like any of the following eight.
1. Lake of the Ozarks
The Ozarks are a stunning range of hills and mountains in central Missouri, and near its northern stretch, the Osage River collects into the Lake of the Ozarks, which is inarguably the most popular outdoor vacation destination in the state. With 1,150 miles of shoreline and 92 miles of water, the Lake of the Ozarks is huge — there is plenty of space for the more than 5 million annual visitors, who enjoy swimming, boating, and plenty of other lakeside activities.
2. Stockton Lake
In the southwest region of the state, Stockton Lake offers the best fishing in the entire state. Anglers all over the country flock to Stockton, Missouri for its reputation for walleye, but perch aren’t the only fish swimming beneath the waves. Large- and smallmouth bass are regularly pulled in throughout the year, and small populations of catfish and crappie troll the lake as well. Of course, Stockton Lake is also pleasant for non-fishers; in fact, it is rated as one of the top 10 lakes for sailboats in the entire U.S.
3. Pomme de Terre Lake
In French, pomme de terre means potato, yet Pomme de Terre Lake in central Missouri bears little resemblance to the typical spud. Still, like the nourishing potato, this lake offers visitors plenty to eat, as its waves are teeming with fish. Though Pomme de Terre is relatively small compared to other Missouri lakes, it offers incredible diversity. However, the biggest draws by far are the vigorous muskies that make for exciting fights with rod and reel.
4. Table Rock Lake
Just outside Branson — which offers excellent entertainment like golf courses, museums, and other vacation luxuries — Table Rock Lake and the surrounding park are absolutely idyllic. In the southern region of the Ozarks, Table Rock offers hundreds of exiting outdoor opportunities, including cycling around the lake and scuba diving beneath the waves. Plus, the busy marinas make old boat owners envy newer models; fortunately, it’s easy to donate an old vessel and invest in something more exciting.
5. Mark Twain Lake
Perhaps the most famous of America’s writers, Mark Twain was born in Missouri and loved the culture. It is fitting, then, that one of the Show Me State’s most beautiful lakes is named in his honor. At 18,600 acres, Mark Twain Lake is the biggest in northern Missouri, and there is plenty to do and see in all that space. Boating is the most popular activity, but there are miles of surrounding hiking and equestrian trails that offer excellent views of the landscape.
6. Long Branch Lake
Not to be confused with a similarly named lake in Tennessee, Missouri’s Long Branch Lake is situated in the beautiful northern region of the state. The beach at this lake rivals any along the East and West Coasts; the sand is warm, the surf is cool, and the volleyball courts are open to anyone. Long Branch is consistently rated among the top spots for swimmers, but boaters also enjoy motoring around the long lake.
7. Harry S Truman Reservoir
Otherwise known as Truman Lake — as a tribute to the only U.S. president native to the Show Me State — the Harry S Truman Reservoir is the second-largest manmade lake in Missouri. Surrounded by the Harry S Truman State Park, the lake is a bountiful outdoor recreation area, where visitors can boat, swim, fish, camp, and explore. The park is perhaps most gorgeous in late summer and early fall, when the trees of the lake’s peninsula turn colors.
8. Big Lake
Though Big Lake’s name may be less than imaginative, it certainly is descriptive of the state’s largest oxbow lake. What was once a bend of the mammoth Missouri River is now a calm outdoor recreation area. Big Lake is not the most popular lake in Missouri, but it is one of the most natural and serene. Nearby, Big Lake State Park contains a broad marsh that attracts all sorts of intriguing wildlife.