Mark Twain Lake, Missouri, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Mark Twain Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About Mark Twain Lake

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

Find Places to Stay at Mark Twain Lake

If you’re considering a Mark Twain Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Mark Twain Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Mark Twain Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Mark Twain Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


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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