Discover the Oldest Man-Made Lake in Missouri

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: August 23, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Lake Wappapello is the oldest man-made lake in Missouri and was created by damming the St. Francis River in 1941 as part of a flood control project by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
  • The Wappapello Dam, which created the lake, was constructed to control flooding along the St. Francis River and its tributaries, as well as to provide hydroelectric power.
  • The lake covers approximately 8,400 acres and boasts over 45 miles of shoreline.
Lake Wappapello is the Largest Man-Made Lake in Missouri
Lake Wappapello is known for being a great place to fish!

Missouri is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It was admitted to the Union as the 24th state on August 10, 1821, and has since become known for its diverse geography, rich history, bustling urban centers, and charming small towns.

The state is bordered by Iowa to the north; Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee to the east; Arkansas to the south; and Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska to the west. Its total land area covers approximately 69,704 square miles, making it one of America’s larger states.

Missouri’s landscape varies greatly from region to region. The northern part of Missouri features rolling hills covered with grassy prairies, while central Missouri boasts beautiful forests that stretch out over gently sloping hills. The southern portion of Missouri is characterized by rugged Ozark Mountains filled with deep valleys and narrow ridges.

Despite being home to major metropolitan areas like St. Louis and Kansas City – both thriving hubs for culture and commerce – much of Missouri remains rural or semi-rural in character. In fact, more than half of all Missourians live in communities outside metropolitan regions.

Overall, Missouri offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural richness that draws visitors from around America -and beyond- year-round!

The Oldest Man-Made Lake

Lake Wappapello Missouri



is the oldest man-man lake in Missouri.

© Wilder

Lake Wappapello is the oldest man-made lake in Missouri, and exploring its history and features can be a fascinating experience for nature lovers. Located in Wayne County, Missouri, this serene water body was created by damming the St. Francis River back in 1941 as part of a flood control project by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The lake has since become an important recreational spot for locals and tourists alike, offering ample opportunities for fishing, boating, camping, and hiking. It stretches across more than 8,400 acres of land with over 45 miles of shoreline to explore.

One unique aspect of Lake Wappapello is its diverse ecosystem which supports an array of plant and animal species, including bald eagles, ospreys, river otters, and even black bears! In addition to this rich biodiversity, visitors are also treated to stunning vistas from various vantage points around the lake, such as Rockwood Point Overlook or The Chalet Picnic Area.

Overall, Lake Wappapello remains a hidden gem within Missouri’s natural landscape that offers something special for everyone who visits it.

How Was it Made?

Lake Wappapello is a man-made lake located in Missouri that has been around for over 85 years. The process of creating this stunning body of water began with the construction of the Wappapello Dam, which was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1930s. The dam was constructed to control flooding along the St. Francis River and its tributaries, as well as to provide hydroelectric power.

Once completed, the dam created a reservoir that would eventually become Lake Wappapello. The lake covers approximately 8,400 acres and boasts over 45 miles of shoreline. It has an average depth of around 23 feet, with some areas reaching depths of up to 50 feet.

Overall, Lake Wappapello is not only an impressive feat of engineering but also serves as an important resource for both flood control and recreational activities in Missouri’s southeastern region.

Where is the Oldest Man-made Lake in Missouri Located on a Map?

Lake Wappapello is a reservoir on the St. Francis River located 120 miles south of the city of St. Louis. The lake is mostly situated in Wayne County, but it reaches into northern Butler County at its southernmost point.


White Bass – White bass, also known as silver bass, exhibit a silvery-white coloration on their sides and bellies with dark stripes that run horizontally along their bodies. They have two dorsal fins, the first of which is spiny, and the second is soft. Their eyes are large and black in color while their mouth extends back to the middle of their eye. White bass typically grow up to 16 inches in length and can weigh up to 3 pounds. These fish are commonly found in freshwater lakes and rivers throughout Missouri, where they feed on small fish, crustaceans, insects, and plankton. When caught by anglers, white bass provide a fun fight due to their strength and agility, making them a popular gamefish for recreational fishing enthusiasts.

White Bass



is full of white bass fish.

©Mahler1780 / public domain – License

Largemouth Bass – Largemouth bass are a popular game fish and can be found in the oldest man-made lake in Missouri. These fish have a distinct appearance that makes them easily recognizable to anglers. They are typically greenish-gray on their backs, fading to white on their bellies. Their sides have a series of dark blotches or stripes that run horizontally along the length of their bodies. The largemouth bass has an elongated body with a large mouth that extends past its eye when opened wide. This unique feature is what gives them their name – “largemouth.” Additionally, they have two dorsal fins, one spiny and one soft, and a tail fin that is deeply forked. Male largemouth bass tend to be smaller than females but may develop a dark horizontal stripe down their side during the breeding season. Overall, largemouth bass is an impressive-looking fish with features that make them both aesthetically pleasing and formidable opponents for anglers seeking out this species for sport fishing purposes in Missouri’s oldest man-made lake.

Largemouth bass are often found near lay downs or other structures where they can ambush their prey.

Largemouth bass are found in the oldest man-made lake in Missouri, usually in brush where they can ambush their prey.


Crappie Crappie is a popular game fish found in many lakes and rivers in Missouri. These fish have a distinctive appearance that sets them apart from other species. Crappies are typically small, measuring between six and 12 inches in length, with an average weight of around one pound. Their body shape is elongated and compressed laterally, giving them a streamlined look. The head of the crappie is small compared to its body, with a large mouth that extends up to the eyes. Its dorsal fin has seven or eight spines, while its anal fin has five or six spines. The coloration of crappie varies depending on their environment and age, but they generally have silvery-grey scales that reflect light brilliantly when exposed to sunlight. They also tend to have black blotches on their sides, which can vary in size and shape. Overall, crappies are highly prized by anglers due to their delicious taste as well as their challenging nature when it comes to catching them. If you plan on fishing for crappie in Missouri’s oldest man-made lake, be sure to keep an eye out for these fascinating creatures!

A caught white crappie

Crappies, highly prized by anglers for their delicious taste, are in Missouri lakes and rivers.

©Jennifer White Maxwell/

Bluegill – The bluegill is a freshwater fish that typically ranges in size from 4-12 inches. It has a round body shape with a slightly pointed head and a small mouth. The coloration of its body varies depending on age and habitat, but it generally has dark green or olive-colored upper parts with light yellow or white underparts. Its sides are often marked with several vertical bars that can range from faint to very prominent. The bluegill’s fins are usually brownish-orange or reddish in coloration, with some showing hints of blue near the edges. Overall, this species is known for its distinctive appearance and is easily recognizable due to its vibrant colors and unique markings.

With vivid colors, the bluegill is all but common throughout the USA. Its a great sporting fish, with healthy populations found in lakes, ponds and rivers.

Vividly colored bluegill are caught in Lake Wappapello.

©Stacey Ann Alberts/

Recreation at Lake Wappapello State Park


You can enjoy camping, hiking, and biking at Lake


State Park.

©Prapat Aowsakorn/

Lake Wappapello State Park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts in Missouri, known for its scenic beauty and abundant recreational opportunities. The park encompasses over 8,400 acres of land surrounding the eponymous Lake Wappapello – one of the oldest man-made lakes in the state.

Fishing is particularly popular at Lake Wappapello thanks to its diverse fish population. Visitors can also rent boats or bring their own to explore the lake’s numerous coves and bays.

For hikers and nature lovers, there are several trails within the park that offer stunning views of both wildlife and scenery alike. The Ozark Trail runs through the park providing access to rugged terrain with some steep hills, while other shorter trails offer more gentle hikes suitable for families with young children.

Camping options range from basic tent sites to RV hookups, complete with electric service allowing visitors to stay close by while they enjoy all that Lake Wappapello State Park has to offer. So whether you’re looking for an action-packed weekend or just want a peaceful escape into nature – this gorgeous state park has something for everyone!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Wilder

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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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