Bagnell Dam originated with US government work programs The New Deal, and formed what we know today as the lake of the Ozarks. Originally operated under a lease from the United States federal government by Union Electric, that company has now become Ameren. Bagnell Dam is an excellent source of hydroelectricity for the region. Now the lake has over 1,150 miles of shoreline and is about 94 miles from end to end. The Bagnell Dam was completed in 1931 to form what is now known as the best recreational lake in the United States, the Lake of the Ozarks.
Bagnell Dam impounds the Osage River, and is the last impound other than locks until the Gulf of Mexico just past New Orleans, Louisiana. Below Bagnell Dam, there are many Missouri State Parks and boat ramps, and provides excellent outdoor recreation of fishing, boating, camping, and scenic vistas.
Lake of the Ozarks is an anomaly being dammed on both ends, in that there is Bagnell Dam on the Lower Osage and the Truman Dam on the Upper Osage in Warsaw, Missouri. Along with both impoundments, the federal government mandates lake levels at Lake of the Ozarks. It is only allowed an approximate range of 6 ft in surface level change, with a drawdown over winter to prepare for spring rains. The lake is mandated to be back at full pool before Memorial Day each year.
Although full pool of 660 ft MSL is required at Lake of the Ozarks, there is the possibility of holding an additional 4 ft of water to 664 ft MSL in case of severe flooding. This is only implemented to hold additional water back from the Mississippi River basin. In the rare event of holding that water, there is usually lots of advance notice. There are areas at Lake of the Ozarks that are in a flood zone due to this possibility of 4 ft lake level increase.
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