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Wappapello Lake is a Missouri gem, located in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in the southeastern region of the state. Although some larger Missouri lakes may draw more attention than Wappapello Lake, 2.5 million people visit this 8,400-acre reservoir each year to enjoy boating, fishing, swimming, and all sorts of outdoor recreation. Steeped in rich American Indian history, the lake was named after Shawnee Chief Wappepilese.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created Wappapello Lake during the 1930's with construction of the Wappapello Dam across the St. Francis River. The project, completed in 1941, provides flood control and hydroelectricity to southeastern Missouri. At the normal recreation pool of 8,400 acres, the elevation of the lake is 360 feet above sea level. The lake's flood pool capacity can expand to 23,200 acres at elevation 395 feet. During winter months, lake levels are reduced to 5,600 acres to make room for melting snow and spring rains. In addition to the St. Francis River, secondary water sources feeding into Lake Wappapello include Otter Creek, Caldwell Creek, and the East and West Forks of Lost Creek.
Although built for flood control and hydroelectricity, Wappapello Lake offers all types of water sports and outdoor recreation, with fishing at the top of the list for anglers. Largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, crappie, and bluegill are among the fish that are commonly caught at Wappapello Lake. There is ample access for boaters and shoreline fishermen. Anglers who like putting their skills to the test in a competition can join one of the tournaments held on the lake. Of course, it can be just as fun to spend a relaxing day on the lake fishing alone or with a buddy.
Boating is a favorite Wappapello Lake activity, ranging from a leisurely exploration of the lake's many coves to adrenaline-pumping activities such as water skiing and jet skiing. Visitors can rent boats from lake marinas. With 25 boat ramps scattered around the lake and several full-service marinas, Lake Wappapello provides ample opportunity for water recreation.
Wappapello Lake is loaded with 38 recreation areas, with more than 30 areas managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources manages Lake Wappapello State Park. The 1,854-acre State Park offers paved boat ramps, fishing, swimming, picnicking, camping, lodging, and trails for hiking, horseback riding, all-terrain biking, and backpacking. Two campgrounds provide basic and electric hookups, hot showers, and modern restrooms and laundry facilities. For an especially fun camping experience, visitors can stay at one of the handful of campsites located on two of the lake's islands. Visitors who prefer a roof over their heads can rent one of the State Park's eight modern cabins with kitchens. A swimming beach and playground equipment complete the package of fun for the entire family.
Take some time to appreciate the wildlife living around Wappapello Lake, including nesting bald eagles, migrating waterfowl, and river otters playing in lake waters. The Bill Emerson Memorial Visitor Center, operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, provides special events and activities from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Programs include natural resources management, environmental stewardship, water safety, plus nature walks and gatehouse tours. Hunters, too, appreciate the Lake Wappapello area. Thousands of acres near the lake are available for hunting of deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, and waterfowl.
If you're looking for a lake that's not overly developed, but one that still offers a bounty of outdoor fun, Wappapello Lake is a great choice. Everyone who visits Wappapello will appreciate the great outdoor opportunities that abound at this beautiful lake.
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