Warsaw is a unique, artsy community right on the water with public docks that welcome boaters and a wonderful lakefront park.
The mural in Warsaw shows a smoking riverboat pulling up to the levy, reminiscent of the days when Osage River steamboats arrived at Warsaw carrying salt, iron, nails and other supplies. The boats then went back down river loaded with meat, grain, eggs, whiskey and furs. Those were the days when Warsaw was a river town instead of the furthest-west community on the Lake of the Ozarks.
Today, Warsaw is a unique, artsy community right on the water with public docks that welcome boaters and a wonderful lakefront park.
There are plenty of shops, art galleries and restaurants just a short stroll away on Main Street. The Lost Valley fish hatchery is just over the hill and the Harry S. Truman Visitors Center and State Park are nearby, high up on Kaysinger Bluff overlooking Truman Dam.
Warsaw has a rich history, from the fur traders and trappers who would gather on the riverbank to meet the steamboats to Senator Thomas Hart Benton who gave one of his last speeches from a front porch on Jefferson Street. The horrors of the Civil War still echo in the streets.
In other words, it’s a great place for a day trip, by boat — 92 miles from Bagnell Dam — or about 65 miles by car. And because so many people have moved into Warsaw over the past dozen years, businesses are open year-round, making it a great place to shop for the holidays.
Warsaw is home to an old swinging bridge, which is on the west side of downtown. It was built in 1904 and rebuilt again in the 1920s. It stretches across what’s left of the Osage River to Kickapoo Island. The bridge was refurbished and opened to foot traffic only in 2007.
Beyond the swinging bridge is 32-year-old Truman Dam, the barrier between Lake of the Ozarks on the east and Truman Lake to the west. The Harry S. Truman Visitor Center is on the bluff above. Because the bluff is so high above Warsaw and the two lakes, the curving windows of the center offer a breathtaking view, encompassing both lakes and the town of Warsaw. Inside, the center sports a collection of local artifacts, from wooly mammoth bones to an old-fashioned loom and a pioneer-days piano, along with a fascinating word-and-picture timeline of area history.
Adjacent to the center are rustic buildings—a pioneer-era school, general store, and home. These buildings, the work of the local heritage association, offer a glimpse of life in the area a century ago.
Just outside of town in the opposite direction from Truman Dam is Lost Valley Fish Hatchery. The hatchery, which raises millions of fish every year, stocks waters across Missouri. There is a well-stocked kids-only fishing pond just outside the visitors’ center where Conservation Department agents supply fishing rods and bait along with a promise of a good catch for anyone under 15. Inside the visitors’ center, one can watch fish biologists at work, breeding walleye and raising channel catfish, striped bass, hybrid striped bass, large mouth bass, muskie and Topeka shiners, not to mention bait minnows. Inside the visitors center is a huge aquarium of state-raised fish and a hands-on entertainment/education nature center and shop. Even without an under-15 in your party, it’s worth a stop.
Drake Harbor downtown is actually on the Osage River arm of Lake of the Ozarks. With boat slips and boat ramps, it’s a great place to get on the water whether you have a motor boat or a kayak. Or just fish from the rocked shoreline.
It also makes Warsaw a great destination for a day trip on the water. You can head from anywhere on Lake of the Ozarks, dock at the riverfront and spend the day wandering around Warsaw, all within easy walking distance from the docks.
Along Drake Harbor is also an elevated boardwalk that offers lake views as well as access to 25 miles of hiking/biking trails that are all connected.
One of the best walks is a combination of the Drake Harbor and Bledsoe Ferry trails. It’s several miles round trip from downtown, but takes in great local sights - namely the historic Joe Dice Swinging Bridge and Truman Dam.
Built in 1928, the bridge is one of three original “swingers” in the Warsaw area. The historic bridge was rehabilitated and reopened for pedestrians and biking in 2007 .
For some shopping, take a stroll down Main Street which features replica lighting nearly identical to the street lights of early 1900s Warsaw. If you like antiquing the shops of downtown Warsaw are for you. The antique stores are a mainstay and always worth a visit for their unique finds.