Floodgates at Bagnell Dam are open and may stay that way for some time. Based on current forecasts, Bagnell Dam operators may keep the floodgates open for several weeks to manage the flow of water coming into Lake of the Ozarks from Truman Lake. 

The Osage River levels are on the move.

Floodgates at Bagnell Dam are open and may stay that way for some time. Based on current forecasts, Bagnell Dam operators may keep the floodgates open for several weeks to manage the flow of water coming into Lake of the Ozarks from Truman Lake. 

What that means is flooding downstream on the Osage River from Bagnell Dam is going to increase. Property owners below the dam will see rising water levels.   

To manage the amount of water released from Bagnell Dam, Ameren Missouri remains in contact with the Army Corps of Engineers, operators of the upstream Truman Dam. Ameren Missouri is also working with the Water Patrol Division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which oversees boaters on the Lake.

"We are focused on safety, and we want residents along the Osage River and on the Lake of the Ozarks to be prepared for changing water conditions," said Warren Witt, director of hydro operations at Ameren Missouri.

People stopping by the Missouri Department of Conservation Osage River Access Wednesday morning saw the Bagnell Dam floodgates fully open and water rushing into the Osage River below.

One of those patrons was James Cullimore of Lake Ozark who has been in the area for seven years and frequents the conservation area to let his dog run around while he picks up trash and meets new people. 

“I love this area, the conservation areas in the state of Missouri and I like to meet a lot of people down here. We get a lot of people that fish from different areas down here,” he said. 

As much as he enjoys being around the Osage River, Cullimore noted he had some concern about how much the floodgates have been opened in recent times. 

“I was told three years ago that the floodgates have been opened up more times in the last seven years than they have been in the entire dam process,” he pointed out. “They’ve opened it a lot down here so I think it is a clear indication of global warming.” 

He has seen water levels in the conservation area creep across the parking lot to the point where the entryway was closed off a few years ago, and certainly hopes it is not a sight he will see again.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Ameren reported that Truman Lake was at a level of 738.6 feet and Lake of the Ozarks was at 659.1 with the Osage River at 572.3. According to Ameren, Truman’s floodgates were releasing water at 60,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) and Bagnell Dam was going to match that throughout the next few days with some rain in the forecast. Ameren also stated that the forecasted pool for Lake of the Ozarks by Friday night would be 659.3. 

Rising water levels are something obviously never taken lightly, but campgrounds along the Osage River are not ready to sound the alarm. After seeing some heavy flooding back in 2015, the current buzz or consensus is that the rise in water levels this time around should not have any real impact on campers.

“I don’t think it will get up here into us. They have to generate a lot more than 80,000 (CFS),” said Tammy Eidson who is a proprietor at Camp Bagnell in Lake Ozark near Highway 54 off V Road. “I think at 80,000 we will see it (water levels) lapping our banks, but I don’t think it will get into the campground until it gets to about 100,000 (CFS) and I hope they don’t have to go there.” 

Camp Bagnell opened back up on May 3 after being closed for a few years. Edison, who has been around the Osage River for 61 years, has seen the area at its worst back in 2015 when the campground was flooded and patrons had to take canoes and kayaks across the river to other houses. According to Eidson, water was being released around 103,000 CFS at that time.

Even though things are not currently projected to get quite as bad, she said it has affected business as campers have called in to say they are not coming due to water level fears while others have left early. Eidson said water is unpredictable, especially with rain in the forecast, but the Army Corps of Engineers has kept them consistently notified.

“The Osage River is unpredictable. I’ve seen it do many things over the years and don’t have any doubt what it can do, the water is going to go somewhere," she said.

“Anyone that lives along the river can call in and get on their (Army Corps of Engineers) notification list. They actually called us at 8:05 this morning and told us they were going to be generating to 60,000 (CFS) and they have been really good about keeping us notified.” 

Edison also has no doubt that she has a good community around her should things take a turn for the worse. She saw that sense of community firsthand when the tornado that ravaged through Eldon passed through the area a few weeks ago.

“They come in from anywhere and everywhere. They are like your next door neighbor, people you have never met before,” she said of the people who came to help clean up. “A bunch of these campers cleaned, helped with these other sights and cried tears together for the losses of others. Just the community spirit and atmosphere down here is a blessing and just awesome.

“They were all godsends,” added Eidson who gladly gave the cleanup crew dinner for their efforts.

Overall, though, Eidson encourages campers to not be worried. 

“I don’t really think we are in that big of a danger right now. Things can change just over a couple of days, but if I was coming to Camp Bagnell to camp, I would feel like I was going to be alright to come,” she noted. “They can definitely come to the restaurant and get into us whether they camp or not.” 

Just down Highway 54 at Riverview RV Park in Lake Ozark, the general feeling is the same. Frankie Youell, who works at the campsite, said her phone had been ringing throughout the day with calls of concern about floodwater. 

“All the owners have told me is it is just supposed to flood the bottom road underneath the tent area. They told me the highest they expect it to get is the tent area and playground,” Youell said of the campground. “They don’t expect it to get to the RVs, but a lot of people are still pretty worried about it.”

Employees have been checking the river every couple of hours to keep tabs on the water levels and see how fast it is rising. Areas underwater had already been blocked off by picnic tables, but like Camp Bagnell, the campground is in constant communication with the proper authorities who Youell noted gives them enough time to make adjustments. 

“There is always someone to answer the message. That way, we know exactly what is going to happen, when it is going to happen and what we need to do. We are always informed,” she stated. 

“I would tell them (campers) to not worry about it until we let everyone know. When we start calling people, that is when they have something to really be worried about. We will let everyone know if we expect anything bad to happen, if we need to move campers or anything like that and inform everyone that has reservations.” 

For any further information on rising water levels, contact Ameren at 573-365-9205.