In theory, the Lake of the Ozarks cannot flood because a rise in the water greater than 660 feet above sea level would overtop the flood gates at Bagnell Dam. Many of the older seawalls and dock walkways were built with that in mind. They rise only slightly higher than the 660-foot mark.
The construction of Truman Dam in the mid-70s has helped stablize lake levels on Lake of the Ozarks. Truman Lake is immediately upstream from Lake of the Ozarks, and it catches and holds most of the rain swells that come down the Osage River.
The ability of Truman Lake to catch and hold flood crests does not insure against fluctuations on Lake of the Ozarks, but before Truman Lake came in, Lake of the Ozarks was more prone to flooding. One of those high water years was 1969. Seawalls, dock ramps, and even roadways were underwater as the lake rose to around elevation 663.
This July 3, 1969 photo was taken at Gatlin Boat Yard on the Gravois Arm. Scenes like this one were repeated all over the lake. You couldn't get to most docks without wading across the walkway!
Text and photo © 2001 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved.