Mark Twain Lake, Missouri, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Missouri - Northeast -

Mark Twain Lake spreads out over 18,600 acres in Ralls and Monroe Counties of northeastern Missouri. The lake and the 2,775-acre Mark Twain State Park are named after America’s most famous humor novelist. The nearby village of Florida, Missouri is home to the Mark Twain Birthplace State Historical Site. A visit to the lake, park, and birthplace will conjure up images reminiscent of the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer on the nearby Mississippi River.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created Mark Twain Lake by impounding the Salt River about 63 miles upstream from its confluence with the Mississippi River. Prone to periodic devastating floods, the multi-purpose Salt River project was authorized by Congress with the Flood Control Act of 1962. Construction of Mark Twain Lake and Clarence Cannon Dam took 14 years to complete with the lake opening to the public in July of 1984. The dam is named after the U.S. Congressman who crusaded for the project. Mark Twain Lake provides flood control, hydropower, water supply, and fish and wildlife conservation to northeast Missouri. Today, the lake provides recreational enjoyment to over two million visitors a year. In July 2008, it reached a record high flood stage of 640 feet above sea level.

Mark Twain Lake’s expansive acreage and 285 miles of shoreline offer endless opportunities for on-water and off-water activities. About 20 boat launch ramps provide access to all parts of the lake. Many of the boat ramps are found in Mark Twain State Park and the Corps of Engineers’ recreation areas. Bring your own boat, or rent a pontoon boat, jon boat, ski boat, or jet ski from one of the lake’s two marinas. Get your adrenaline pumping by riding the waves on water skis, wakeboards, or tubes. Or, if you prefer a slower pace, drink in the lake’s dramatic scenery dominated by limestone bluffs. Save time to soak up some sun on one of the lake’s three swimming beaches.

Mark Twain Lake is an angler’s delight. The lake’s “Big 3” are crappie, largemouth bass, and catfish. Although less prevalent, the lake also offers up catches of white bass, walleye, and bluegill. Bait shops around the lake display photos of catfish prizes weighing in at over 50 pounds. Crappie fishing is especially good in the spring when water levels are high and the fish are feasting on young shad. Heavy spring rains wash sediment into the lake, prompting locals to refer to the lake’s color as “Yoo-hoo” after the chocolate drink.

The pristine shoreline of Mark Twain Lake has no residential or commercial development and no private docks. More than 36,000 acres of public land surround the lake, providing ample opportunity for camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and hunting. Mark Twain State Park provides boat ramps, picnic areas, and six miles of hiking trails with scenic views of the lake. The four park trails vary in length from an easy 1/2 mile hike to a moderately difficult 2-1/2 mile trek. Two of the Corps’ recreation areas offer equestrian trails. Although private resorts are scattered around Mark Twain Lake, camping in the State Park or at one of the Corps-maintained campgrounds is the preferred way to enjoy an overnight stay. Accommodations include primitive campsites, sites with electric, water and sewer hook-ups, RV sites, and camper cabins with modern conveniences.

No visit to the lake would be complete without a short jaunt to the Mark Twain Birthplace State Historical Site. The museum includes the two-room cabin in which Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in 1835, first editions of the author’s works, a handwritten manuscript of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and furnishings from his home in Hartford, Connecticut. A red granite monument marks the original location of the Clemens’ cabin in the village of Florida. Another off-water adventure is the Army Corps of Engineers’ self-guided tour of the Clarence Cannon Dam and powerhouse, which provides a history of the lake and dam project and the basics of how moving water produces electricity. The best place to start your tour is at the Boudreaux Memorial Visitor Center, offering panoramic views of the lake and dam.

Mark Twain Lake offers fun for the entire family. So, pack your bags and plan to spend some quality time with Mother Nature, creating your own Huckleberry Finn-like adventures.

Things to do at Mark Twain Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Mark Twain Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Shad
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Mark Twain Lake Photo Gallery

Mark Twain Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 18,600 acres

Shoreline Length: 285 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 606 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 640 feet

Average Depth: 29 feet

Maximum Depth: 85 feet

Water Volume: 543,994 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1984

Drainage Area: 2,318 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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