The water level at Lake of the Ozarks has fluctuated a great deal over the years, though not so much now as it once did. In the original lake concept, Union Electric planned on summer fluctuations of about 15 feet in order to generate electricity at the dam. In addition, property owners could expect a winter draw-down. It was a good time to repair docks and replace barrels without getting your feet wet, as the following picture illustrates.

Taken in February, 1978, near mile marker 4 on the Gravois Arm, the photo shows several private docks resting on the draw-down slope. In more normal times these docks would be floating in ten to fifteen feet of water. The top of the snow line is roughly full reservoir level. My father, standing in the foreground, would have been completely underwater.

And there is a bit of a mystery in this photo, too. My parents' dock is in the background. It's the dark red one, in front of the covered dock. Notice the tree stump just off the end of it. The stump is the mystery. It's not supposed to be there. According to the original 1929 reservoir clearing plan, no stump over twelve inches in height on the high side was to be left in a thirty foot draw-down area. They were to be burned. But there it is, three foot high and at least 24 inches in diameter--neither burned nor removed.

Oh, one last thing. I mentioned earlier that dock owners could use this low water time to replace barrels. For those of you new to the lake, there was a time, not so many years ago, when most docks were floated by 55-gallon barrels. Eventually they would rust out; occasionally they would break away from the dock in rough water and float away. That was always a hazard, especially when boating at night. We hit one, once. It was partially filled with water and floating on end with just its rim breaking the surface. It cracked our fiberglass hull. So if you've ever wondered what's on the bottom of the lake, try to picture a junkyard of rusty barrels and you won't be far off.

Text and photo © 2002 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved.