Have you ever gazed out over the Lake and wondered what was there before the water filled the valley? Lake of the Ozarks has been in existence for more than 75 years, and there aren't many folks left who can remember what was down there those many years ago.

Fortunately, survey records of the inundated areas still exist, and they tell a story of life as it was in the Osage Valley before 1931. The above map, which depicts the confluence of the Niangua Arm with the Main Channel of the Lake, is based on those old surveys, with additional information taken from photographic evidence.

The map is accurate. The light blue areas show the original stream beds--in this case the Osage River, the Niangua River, and Linn Creek. The darker blue mass indicates the surface area of today's Lake.

As you examine the map, notice that the Osage River meandered down from the north and made an eastward turn where the Niangua River emptied into it. Just a little farther east Linn Creek spilled into the Osage.

Notice how the original Missouri Highway 5--just a gravel road in those days--came down from the north and crossed the Osage River valley. It crossed the Osage on a suspension bridge. At the south end of the bridge there was a toll house. Underneath the bridge, paralleling the south shore of the Osage, another road crossed in an east-west direction along the base of the bluff. This was the Barnumton Road, the predecessor of Highway 7. It crossed the Niangua River via Kiplinger ferry. That same site was also a favorite swimming hole for local folks. The map shows certain present-day roads in black. These are actually extensions of the old roads that came up out of the valley.

Crane Cemetery was down in the bottoms--very nearly in the middle of today's Lake channel. It was one of some sixty cemeteries that were located in the area to be inundated. All the graves were supposed to have been moved, but old-timers say that many of them were not.

The McClurg House was the residence of a Missouri governor during Reconstruction Days. The house was not torn down when the Lake bed was cleared because it was located just above the projected water line. Sadly, it burned in the 1940s. That point of land is now the site of Pier 31 Marina.

The old town of Linn Creek, which was entirely demolished to make way for the Lake, begins near the bottom of the mapsheet.

I have been working on several more maps like this one. You can see them by clicking here. Thanks.

Text and map © 2007 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved.