Does Lake of the Ozarks Freeze Over in the Winter?

Written by Eliana Riley
Updated: July 21, 2023
© BeLinda Cordes/
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While Lake of the Ozarks is best experienced during the summer months, winter brings a host of freezes and challenges to those living on the lake. Entire freezes on the main channel of Lake of the Ozarks are rare, but coves and docks are prone to freezing regularly with the introduction of winter. While a white sheet of ice over the lake might be a beautiful sight, it is a difficult–often damaging–experience for boat owners. Find out more about freezes on Lake of the Ozarks and how to protect docks during harsh winter weather conditions.

Background on Lake of the Ozarks

Infographic about the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.
The Lake of the Ozarks is a deep lake in the Ozark Mountains in southern Missouri.

Lake of the Ozarks is located within the Ozark Mountains in the state of Missouri. The lake is one of the largest constructed lakes in the nation, and it connects to Bagnell Dam. The dam produces electric power that is used in major cities like St. Louis, Missouri. Lake of the Ozarks has a surface area of around 93 square miles, and it stretches 90 miles in length.

Lake of the Ozarks State Park is an incredible vacation spot with campsites and other lodging accommodations for visitors. Activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing are all available on the Lake of the Ozarks. Surrounding the lake are numerous hiking, biking, and horseback riding opportunities. The park offers boat rentals and has installed paved boat ramps for the ease and enjoyment of its visitors.

Various animal species live in and near Lake of the Ozarks. Over 54 unique fish species swim in Ozark waters, including minnows and largemouth bass. Some unique reptiles within this region are the southern red back salamander and the northern water snake. Mammals include bobcats, river otters, and the nine-banded armadillo. Birds make up the largest animal classification near Lake of the Ozarks with 173 species. One bird, the belted kingfisher, has feathers on its head that look like a mohawk.

Lake of the Ozarks, Osage Beach area of Missouri
Lake of the Ozarks is a popular vacation spot in Missouri.

© Spring

Weather and Climate on Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks experiences humid, hot summers and cold winters, which bring an abundance of snowfall. Skies over the lake are typically partly cloudy regardless of the season. Many recommend visiting Lake of the Ozarks between May and September, as weather conditions are most favorable during this period.

Temperature averages for the summer season on Lake of the Ozarks range between 56º Fahrenheit and 89º Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures average between 25ºF and 48ºF. During summer, the hottest time of day on the lake occurs between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. On the other hand, winter’s coldest time of day passes during a 10-hour period between 12 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Skies are most visible in the months of August and September, and they are cloudiest during February. Precipitation is heaviest during spring with May averaging the most amount of rainfall at 4.7 inches. Snow on Lake of the Ozarks begins in November and lasts into early April. However, snow is sparse in April, averaging a tenth of an inch. The most snowfall occurs during January, which averages 3.2 inches.

Why Do Lakes Freeze in Winter?

As temperatures begin to drop, warm water on the lake’s surface cools and becomes denser. The water eventually reaches a temperature of 39ºF. This temperature is significant because it represents the point at which water is most dense. Increased density in cooler surface waters causes the waters to drop to the bottom of the lake. As a result, warmer waters replace the previously warm–now cool–waters on the surface. This turnover occurs again and again until the entirety of the lake’s waters reaches 39ªF.

When all waters within the lake have cooled and become most dense, the lake is prone to freezing. Now, the warmer 39ºF waters reside at the bottom of the lake while the surface waters reach an even lower temperature. They will not turnover because all waters have surpassed their point of highest density.

This phenomenon is why lakes freeze from the top down. The surface waters will drop below 39ºF during a freeze, and ice sheets will form. Meanwhile, dense, warm waters at the bottom of the lake will not freeze, allowing fish and other water dwellers to navigate the waters and adjust their body temperatures despite a freeze. Furthermore, ice sheets that result from freezes help to insulate the unfrozen waters underneath, keeping fish and waters warm.

Does Lake of the Ozarks Ever Freeze Over?

Lake of the Ozarks is prone to partial freezes during winter. In most circumstances, the coves of the Lake of the Ozarks will freeze before the main channel. In fact, a complete main channel freeze on the lake is rare. The entirety of Lake of the Ozarks has not frozen over in two decades, but a complete freeze is not the main issue on the lake.

The most difficult aspect of freezes on the lake is dock damage. Docks on Lake of the Ozarks will experience heavy freezes during winter, which create numerous problems for boat owners. In February of 2021, Lake of the Ozarks experienced a partial freeze on its main channel, resulting in damages to over 60 docks on the lake.

Frozen Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Docks on Lake of the Ozarks will experience heavy freezes during winter, which create numerous problems for boat owners.

©Kaleb Tallmage/

Protecting Boating Equipment During a Freeze

Protecting docks and boats during a freeze is crucial to avoiding serious damage. There are several ways by which to mitigate the effects of a freeze. Below describe some of the actions boat and dock owners on Lake of the Ozarks can take to protect their belongings.

General Instruction

Ameren Missouri outlines important and specific advice for dock and boat owners on Lake of the Ozarks, which can be found here. Some crucial points from Ameren Missouri on docks, boats, and freezes are listed below.

  • Connections that attach docks to shoreline structures, such as piers, should be flexible, as water levels during the winter will vary.
  • Cables should be elongated, as docks will have to be flexible with decreased water levels in Lake of the Ozarks during winter.
  • Call on neighbors to watch your dock during your absence.
  • Dock deicers may not mitigate the damaging effects of large sheets of ice.

Dock Deicers

During freezes on Lake of the Ozarks, ice and water accumulate and move around a dock. This action can put pressure on the dock’s structure and on the anchoring system that connects the dock to land. To avoid serious damage and the removal of a dock from its position, owners can purchase dock deicers. These machines help to move water and ice around the dock so that the dock itself does not move with the current.

Maintaining Air Pressure

As temperatures drop, air pressure is reduced. Boat lifts use air-filled tanks to raise the boat above the water, but a decrease in air pressure means that a boat lift will lower down. Maintaining air pressure in a boat lift is crucial to ensuring that the boat does not sink in the lake or float away. To ensure that a boat does not escape the dock in Lake of the Ozarks, boat owners can tie their boats to the lift.

One option that helps to maintain air pressure is Firstmate Controls’ lift-control system. This option allows a boat lift owner to add air pressure to their boat lift from their phone through an app. When the lift begins to drop, air pressure can be added automatically or manually.

Keep Heavy Snow Off the Dock

A strong dock is key to avoiding dock sinking, which occurs when excess weight on a dock causes it to sink into the water. Heavy snowfall is one of the biggest threats to dock stability during winter. Snow should be removed from the dock, so added weight does not sink the dock. Furthermore, asking neighbors or friends to keep an eye on the dock during an owner’s departure from their lake residence allows for immediate notification if the dock begins to slip into the water.

Frozen lake and snow covered docks
Heavy snowfall is one of the biggest threats to dock stability during winter.

©Milla Rasila/

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About the Author

I'm Ellie, and I am a full-time college student at Miami University. I enjoy writing, copy editing, and being involved in journalism. I write for The Miami Student newspaper as an opinion columnist. My favorite animals are fish, rabbits, and cats.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Does Lake of the Ozarks ever experience a complete freeze?

Lake of the Ozarks rarely experiences a complete freeze. Docks and coves are most susceptible to freezes on the lake.

What is one way to mitigate the effects of a freeze for dock owners?

Dock owners can purchase dock deicers, which move water and ice around the dock. This action keeps a dock from floating away with the current.

Does Lake of the Ozarks experience heavy snowfall?

January is the month in which Lake of the Ozarks averages the most amount of snowfall at 3.2 inches.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

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  5. Sydney Moran, Available here:,to%20help%20with%20potential%20damages
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  7. Ameren Missouri, Available here:
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