Table Rock Lake

Missouri

By Mark Corke

Family fun! Watersports of all kinds are popular on Table Rock Lake. Best for fishing, and more fishing plus every kind of small-boat fun.

Family fun on Table Rock Lake in Missouri

Table Rock Lake and the legendary Big Cedar Lodge have been long-time destinations for my family," says TV personality and bass-fishing addict Mark Zona. "It's everything that's right in the outdoors. I started fishing Table Rock Lake in my teens, and being able to take my 16-year-old twin boys there now is nothing less than magical."

Sunset on Table Rock Lake in Missouri

If you're as keen on fishing as Zona, then a visit to Table Rock Lake may belong on your bucket list. The lake was formed when the White River was dammed in 1958 to provide flood control and supply hydroelectric power to surrounding towns and cities. Fishing is the prime activity; stripers, largemouth, and smallmouth bass are plentiful. The lake has more than 850 miles of shoreline, and with numerous islands, inlets, and fingers off the main channels, seclusion is easy to find. This also makes it an ideal spot for gunkholing and a perfect small-boat playground. "My favorite time is in the very early morning," says Rebecca Birch, a regular on the lake. "The sun's just coming up, the lake's covered with a light mist, and the only sound is my bow splashing through the water." Birch, a Branson native, boats as often as she can. "Often, I'll just head out for a few hours. But when friends come to stay, we'll go off for a few days, camping at one of the many lakeside campgrounds."

Table Rock Lake Know How

When To Go

The warmest months are July and August, peak season, with highs in the upper-80s F and lows in the mid-60s F. The mild-weather shoulder season of September and October is less crowded. Columbus Day weekend is often a treat for leaf peepers, with spectacular fall colors on the wooded shoreline.

Table Rock Lake map

Where To Stay

Most of the lodging options are centered on the eastern end of the lake towards Branson. www.explorebranson.com

Cedar Lodge is a full-on resort and has all the amenities. Rates start at $120 per night (off-season, double); expect to pay more during busy times. www.bigcedar.com

Camping is big; the lake has more than 50 campgrounds, from big and luxurious to small and rustic. Check out the park-service website. mostateparks.com

Where To Launch

With 24 launch ramps around the lake, there's sure to be one near your lodging. In years past, low water levels from a leak in the dam made some of these ramps unusable. But the leak is now fixed, and water levels are expected to be normal by press time. A call ahead is still recommended. See Table Rock Lake boat Ramp Locations.

Details

There may be a launch fee at private ramps. You'll need to have taken and passed a Missouri boating safety course before boating on the lake.

Fishing a licenses are available online. http://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing/permits

If you just can't get enough of the lake, Table Rock is home to the Branson Belle, a large, 700-passenger stern-wheeler that offers dinner cruises. www.bransonshows.com/activity/showboatBransonBelle.cfm

In fact, you'll find the full gamut of boats on the lake, from bowriders, like Birch's, and bass boats all the way up to large houseboats, which often tow a pontoon boat behind to act as a tender and tow vessel for those who like water sports. Much of the lake is in the densely wooden region of the Ozarks, so if you fancy a day off the boat, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore in the surrounding countryside. There's a large sandy beach with a roped-off area for swimming at Moonshine Beach, at the northern end of the lake. Many of the shoreside campgrounds and recreational areas also have sandy beaches, which are ideal for family members who want a day off from boating. 

— Published: Spring 2016


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