Lake of the Ozarks is big, open water, occasionally white-capped by strong winds and big boats. The lake's feeder streams and rivers are quieter, smoother. So are the coves, perfect for dropping anchor, tossing a raft overboard, and floating to the rhythm of the waves.

Lake of the Ozarks is big, open water, occasionally white-capped by strong winds and big boats. The lake’s feeder streams and rivers are quieter, smoother. So are the coves, perfect for dropping anchor, tossing a raft overboard, and floating to the rhythm of the waves.

Many would have it no other way. At all times, those folks prefer to be at water’s level, seated in canoes and kayaks or standing on paddleboards. They know the water will hold them, and they strive to be at one with its rhythms, quietly floating and actively seeking the next natural wonder--the thrill of a paddlefish jumping for the sun, a heron standing statuesque on a buoy, and river otters playing in the currents.

Row with a Ranger

People who prefer boating by kayak can find each other at the monthly Ha Ha Tonka Row with a Ranger event scheduled for the third Sunday from May through September, leaving from the Spring Access park. Both inexperienced and experienced paddlers can attend because those without equipment can now rent a single kayak for 2 hours at a cost of $20, 3 hours for $30, and all day for $40. Tandem kayaks cost $25 for 2 hours, $35 for 4 hours, and $50 all day. Experienced paddlers are encouraged to bring their own kayaks, life jackets, and paddles.

Led by DNR rangers from Ha Ha Tonka and Lake of the Ozarks State parks, Row with a Ranger is not a skills-based instructional course. Rather it is a two-hour (10 am to noon) journey into the “serenity of being on the water, enjoying the landscapes and the physical challenge along the way,” said Ryan King, Natural Resource Manager at Ha Ha Tonka. Rangers will provide information about the two state park’s natural resources as people “take in new scenery.”

Row with a Ranger events fill up quickly, and reservations are required. Signup is as easy as going online at, or people can call 573-346-2986 to reserve a place.

Kayak Meetups with Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance (LOWA)

For many years, LOWA has been providing equipment, launch steps, and support for tourists and residents who want to experience Lake of the Ozarks at a leisurely pace. LOWA will continue this community service in 2019 on the second Saturday morning of the month, May through September.

At these events, LOWA provides kayaks, paddles, and life jackets for those who do not have their own equipment. They will meet newcomers and old-timers at the launch steps just past the picnic shelter of the Spring Access park, Ha Ha Tonka. LOWA is responsible for those steps making it easier to launch a kayak and step in it from the shore.

Another Lake organization, the Lake of the Ozarks chapter of Missouri Master Naturalists, helps LOWA with the Kayak Meetups by providing instruction and assistance. Local vendors bring paddleboards for attendees to try out if they want to stand and paddle.

Big Niangua River Trail (BNRT) for Paddlers

Naturalists also help maintain a different LOWA project: a water trail known as the Big Niangua River Trail (BNRT), designed for people-powered boating because it follows a trail into shallow waters. Maps for the trail are available at many local places and online at the Lake of the Ozarks Master Naturalists website. BNRT is for those who have equipment and time to explore some of the Big Niangua’s iconic natural resources and historical sites, identified by signs donated by Ameren and inspected periodically by volunteer kayaking Naturalists.

Osage Howler Full Moon Race (June 15) and Niangua Darter (September 21)

In June, LOWA will host another fund-raiser, a 30-mile float from Osage Tavern to Pikes Camp. 

Later, in the fall, LOWA will again be on the water for the Niangua Darter. This kayak trail leaves from the Whistle Bridge and ends at Ha Ha Tonka. A shuttle helps paddlers arrive at their cars.  

Incorporated in August 2006, LOWA brought together local, state, and federal groups with a mutual concern: the health and safety of these waters and those who use them. 

Fund-raisers and grants keep the organization healthy to fulfill their missions.

Paddleboards on the Lake

Like kayaks and canoes, paddleboards offer an outdoor sport that can define and refine physical strength while also providing a greater sense of well-being just being closer to nature. Paddleboard enthusiasts stand on a board, using their strengths to balance and navigate; they seem to “walk on water,” and if they do it well, they might never get their bodies wet.

For proof that paddleboards are trending, visitors need look no further than area businesses renting boats, kayaks, canoes, personal watercraft, and now paddleboards. Several area boat supply stores also sell paddleboards, and one area retailer, Kalise Lischwe, provides Boga Yoga boards. She specializes in serving those who set out to improve heart rates, physical strengths, and spiritual well-being while performing yoga and floating.

From April or May, depending on the weather’s cooperation, and continuing through the lake season, Lischwe holds several classes each week. Signing up is as easy as visiting a Facebook page at Kali’a Mahulia SUP Yoga. Then those who’ve registered will meet at water’s edge before paddling to calm waters and “connecting to [the] planet,” said Lischwe.

The Call of the Water 

For those who prefer glimpses of nature seen from the water’s surface and for those who prefer a slower, more peaceful experience powered by paddles in palm right here on Lake of the Ozarks or its feeder streams and rivers, residents and guests can find canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards readily available. People can be on the water, motoring under their own horsepower any day.