Early Years Contents

Chapter 1. Bagnell Dam

Between August 1929 and June 1931, the Union Electric Light and Power Company of St. Louis (now AmerenUE), with the help of Stone and Webster Engineering, an internationally famous construction company, changed the Osage River valley forever by building Bagnell Dam and creating Lake of the Ozarks. This chapter features remarkable construction photos from the archives of AmerenUE.

Chapter 2. Eldon to Tuscumbia

The construction of Bagnell Dam transformed Eldon, 12 miles north of the dam, from a country town to a bustling little city, and on its southern limits tourism sprang to life at the junction of U. S. Highway 54 and State Highway 52. But a few miles to the east, in one of the oldest towns on the Osage River – Tuscumbia -- where steamboat commerce was everything, life fell apart and the tourists never came.

Chapter 3. Bagnell to Lakeside

The small Osage River town of Bagnell, four miles below Bagnell Dam, bequeathed its name to the dam. Everything that went into the construction of the dam passed through Bagnell on the Missouri Pacific Railroad or came up the river by barge. Union Electric did more than build the dam to generate electricity – the company also gave birth to the tourism industry that sprang up on the body of water they named Lake of the Ozarks.

Chapter 4. Lake Ozark

From the woodlands along the ridge at the west end of Bagnell Dam a new town came to life in 1931. It was called Lake Ozark. Born during the Great Depression, the town not only survived but survived the rationing years of World War II and boomed into the mom and pop roadside business era of the 1950s and 60s. The shops and roadside attractions of Lake Ozark soon made the “Bagnell Dam Strip” famous throughout the Midwest.

Chapter 5. Osage Beach

Eight miles southwest of Bagnell Dam near the junction of the Osage and Grand Glaize rivers, Union Electric built a bridge to carry U.S. Highway 54 across the new lake. On the east side was the village of Zebra and on the west side was the village of Damsel. The new bridge became famous as the Upside Down Bridge and the two villages vanished to become a luxurious resort and recreational area known as Osage Beach. Chapter 6. LINN CREEK The coming of Lake of the Ozarks meant the inundation and death of a number of small towns in the Osage River valley, none more legendary than Linn Creek, the county seat of Camden County. This chapter provides a look at this lost city, its downtown area, the steamboats that brought it commerce, the town’s famous swinging bridge spanning the Osage River, and the town’s most famous citizen, Governor Joseph. W. McClurg.

Chapter 7. Camdon

Camdenton, the town that sprang from the ashes of old Linn Creek, grew up at the junction of U.S. Highway 54 and State Highway 5. From the beginning it was a “planned city,” and gave the residents of old Linn Creek a new lease on life where inundating waters would never again threaten them. This chapter presents images from the early days of Camdenton, known to its founders as “the Miracle City.”

Chapter 8. Ha Ha Tonka

Just west of Camdenton, on the banks of Lake of the Ozarks is Ha Ha Tonka, one of the grandest natural wonders of Missouri and a place steeped in romance and history. Today, many people visit Lake of the Ozarks simply to have an opportunity to see this place of incomparable Ozark beauty and mysterious ruins both natural and man-made. This chapter explores the history of Ha Ha Tonka in text and photo.

Chapter 9. Hurricane Deck to Versailles

Bagnell Dam backs up the waters of Lake of the Ozarks for nearly 100 miles to the west. State Highway 5 north out of Camdenton gives access to this land of vacation resorts and fishing camps. It crosses the lake on two historic bridges – the Niangua Bridge and the Hurricane Deck Bridge. And it passes through two communities that existed long before Lake of the Ozarks was created—Gravois Mills and Versailles.