Truman Lake

Show Me The Missouri's

By Pat Piper

They arrive by camper or RV, some pulling boats on trailers and even some on bicycles with tents and sleeping bags. Here's why...

Photo of Kaysinger Bluff overlooking Truman Lake, Missouri

On a map, Truman Lake looks like a backward "K" — four arms reaching north and south, due west and southwest. Up close, its 958-mile shoreline, the granite cliffs, and the mile-long Truman Lake Hydroelectric Dam with a visitor center overlooking the 55,600 acres of water are indeed a sight to behold.

Truman Basics

"Here's how I explain Truman Lake to folks," says Charlie Terrell of Anglers in Action. "This is where you'll find the best fishing lake in the Midwest. It has good ramps and it's unique from other lakes because there are no waterfront homes. It's owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The result is lots of timber along the shoreline. Fish like that."

People do, too. Terrell's observation is echoed by Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Erin Cordrey. "I would describe Truman as an excellent destination for recreational boating, fishing, and camping. You can beach your boat anywhere along the shoreline, but keep in mind the lake's primary purpose is flood control and the lake elevation can fluctuate greatly. Normal pool is 706 feet above mean sea level but at normal pool, boaters on Truman do need to keep an eye out for underwater trees, especially in the coves." Cordrey's warning is based on the fact that the farther you travel from the center of the lake and into one of the four arms, the shallower the water is going to get. Fisherman Larry Stoafer has seen what can happen. "With over 8,800 acres of standing timber left when flooded, boaters have to be very careful the first time on the lake not to venture too far from the lower main lake and river channels, especially the upper end of Tebo Creek on the Tebo Arm, which is known as a lower unit eater." The Army Corps has a website for checking the pool level:

The "K" And The Arms

Cordrey says each of the four arms of the Truman Lake has its own character. The Osage Arm (southwest) is known for scenic granite walls that include the Kaysinger Bluff, which is the site of the Truman Visitor Center. The largest towns on the Osage Arm are Warsaw (population 2,000) and Osceola (population 850). Both have boat ramps, but waterskiers head to the Osage arm because it's wider and deeper. The Grand Arm (west) is where anglers go for catfish or to view eagles and waterfowl. The largest town is Clinton, which is a big tourist destination with numerous boat ramps at campgrounds as well as a public ramp at Sparrowfoot Park and Bucksaw Park. The southernmost point of Truman Lake is the city of Hermitage on the Pomme de Terre Arm. The nearby Pomme de Terre State Park has four boat ramps at no cost for launching. Tebo Arm (north) is scenic and a favorite for boaters, but as Stoafer warns, take care of your prop when motoring out of the channel.

The center of lake activity is one-and-a-half miles northwest of Warsaw, where a visitor's site overlooks the Truman Dam that contains the Osage River. From here, one has a firsthand look at the amount of water held back for hydroelectric power generation as well as flood control. There's a no-boating zone on the upstream side of the dam, marked not only by an orange buoy line but signage as well. The same holds true for the downstream side where anglers are quick to point out the excellent bank fishing at Bledsoe Ferry Park.

From the Visitor Center, Truman Lake State Park six miles away is visible. Located on a peninsula, the park has a marina with fuel, supplies, boat rentals, a boat ramp, and a restaurant.

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