Ferries, Bridges, the Osage and the Lake
by H. Dwight Weaver
Since the beginning of settlement along the Osage River in the 1830s, travelers have often found the river difficult to get across, not because of deep water or flooding but because of the scarcity of ferries and bridges.
After the 1850s ferries began to make their appearance at strategic points along roads that were the most heavily traveled.
Suspension bridges (swinging bridges) made their appearance in the late 1800s, the first one being built at Warsaw in 1895. Joe Dice, a native of Warsaw, who helped in the construction of that bridge, later achieved local fame by building more than 30 other suspension bridges. Many of them spanned the Osage River. In Miller County, however, Dice built half a dozen bridges across Tavern Creek. Most of those bridges are now gone, replaced in recent years by modern structures.
The coming of Lake of the Ozarks only complicated matters for the natives and tourists in Benton, Camden, Miller and Morgan counties. Several suspension bridges that spanned the Osage were demolished with the coming of the Lake. Linn Creek’s swinging bridge, a toll bridge that carried State Highway 5, fell victim to the Lake. With its demise, the Gov. McClurg Ferry was established because the Lake severed Highway 5 where it crossed the Niangua River and the Osage River. Bridges at those points were not operational until 1937. After their construction the Gov. McClurg Ferry was out of business. The image that accompanies this article shows the Gov. McClurg Ferry, photographer unknown.
Several other ferries continued to operate for a few years at different locations after the Lake was created but eventually closed. Various communities bordering the Lake and its major arms have, at one time or another, agitated for either ferries or bridges at their locations but have not been able to get county or state support for such projects. For the past 60 years it has been possible to boat Lake of the Ozarks from the Hurricane Deck Bridge to Warsaw without encountering a single car ferry or passing beneath a single bridge. It seems rather remarkable to think that a bridge needed so badly for so long to connect the east and west sides of the Lake via Shawnee Bend did not get built until the 1990s. Today, the Community Bridge is that link. One can only wonder if any bridge will ever be built anywhere across the Lake between Hurricane Deck and Warsaw.