Hailed as the most skillful engineering feat of its day, actual construction of Bagnell Dam (and what was at that time the world¹s largest man-made lake), began August 6, 1929 by Union Electric Company of St. Louis, MO (now AmerenUE).
Four months after construction began, the stock market crashed. While the rest of the nation was caught in The Great Depression, the mammoth Bagnell undertaking brought about a growth and expansion to central Missouri which continues today. Some 4,600 workers were employed at one time, among 20,500 total individuals,
over two years.
The project was divided into three categories. The dam and power house included construction of all features relating to the structure and generating plant. These included a camp, roads, railroad tracks and temporary structures. Transmission lines included all manner of design, location and construction of the lines to carry electricity to the marketplace. The reservoir included location, land surveys and mapping of what is now the Lake of the Ozarks.
Once cleared, the reservoir was outlined. The Osage River was impounded and the lake began to fill on February 2, 1931. The lake was opened to travel May 30, 1931. Backwaters extended up the Niangua, Grand Glaize, Grand and Pomme de Terre rivers. The reservoir encompasses 92 square miles, or some 54,000 acres of which 30,000 acres required clearing.
The dam is of concrete gravity type, 2,543ft long. It consists of a 511ft long power station, 520ft long spillway section and two non-overflow retaining sections adjacent to the river banks. The dam supports a concrete highway structure, which includes a 20ft wide roadway and a 3ft sidewalk, both spanning the entire length of the dam. The 215,000 kilowatt capacity power plant provides electricity to a large area of the state.
The Lake covers 54,000 acres, impounds 646 billion gallons of water and has 1,150 miles of cove indented shoreline. These immense statistical facts have created the opportunity for the spectacular tourism area we all enjoy today. Thousands of visitors travel here every year to enjoy the beauty and recreation that was brought about by the Great Osage River Project.