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Navigating Table Rock Lake

What you need to know to


Table Rock Lake—located about 20 minutes from Branson, Missouri—offers visitors 45,000 surface acres and 800 miles of shoreline to explore. Captains of all boat sizes and interests will find Table Rock to be a diverse ecosystem with spectacular scenery and clean, clear water. Whether you tow your vessel to the lake or rent from an area marina, knowing what to expect will ensure an easy, breezy cruise.

Tributary rivers from both Missouri and Arkansas feed into the sprawling lake, creating a freshwater paradise. The White, James and Kings rivers are the primary watersheds that flow into the lake, which means a boat deck is the best place to be. Navigating additional tributaries, including Long Creek (flowing from the south) and Roaring River (flowing from the northwest out of Roaring River State Park) add to the scenic cruising available.

Ready to splash down with your boat? Follow the tips below to become an advanced captain on Table Rock’s waterways.

Tubing on the lake

Table Rock Basics

At Table Rock Lake, boaters can simply find a quiet cove to “chill out” in, cruise some 60 miles upstream from the dam to explore the magnificent lake, and everything in between. GPS navigational systems help you find, and waypoint, your favorite spots. That being said, even experienced boaters can become temporarily “lost” among the hundreds of coves and pockets, many of which look quite similar. Store a detailed lake map on your vessel for backup, and if possible, chart your course of exploration before heading out on the water. The lake is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has conveniently placed mile markers along the waterway to help you determine your location. Keep an eye out for these and make mental notes of the surrounding landscape.

You’ll find many days when boat traffic is minimal. But keep in mind that the lake can, at times, get a significant amount of boat traffic. Learn and follow navigation rules so everyone can enjoy the lake with a maximum fun factor. This includes slowing down near other boats—especially when folks are in the water—and community docks that dot the shoreline.

Store a detailed lake map on your vessel for backup, and if possible, chart your course of exploration before heading out on the water.


Captains of all boat sizes are welcome.

Marina gas station

Gas, Food, and Shelter

Table Rock Lake offers excellent access for boaters, including 24 public boat ramps around the lake. There are also 14 public marinas where you may purchase gas, food, and other supplies for your day on the water. Most of the marinas offer extended hours from late spring until early fall, but keep in mind that hours of operation may be limited from October through April. Call ahead before visiting these facilities. You don’t want to pull up with an empty tank only to find the gas dock closed (trust me, I know from personal experience on this one).


14 public marinas are available around the lake.

Unlike some heavily developed lakes, Table Rock is restricted on commercial development along the shoreline, so you won’t find a lot of boat-up dining establishments. Many visitors find this to be a plus, as it helps maintain the natural beauty of the lake. However, there are still several excellent restaurants accessible by water—some in conjunction with the marinas.

The lake also has an abundance of lakefront resorts to serve as home base for your boating adventures. Many have private launch ramps and offer slip rental for your watercraft.

Captain Seeking Boat

For those who want to experience the lake, but don’t own a boat or want to tow theirs to the lake, have no fear. Great boat rental options exist. Most of the marinas, and many lakefront resorts, offer hourly and/or daily rentals, so everyone can enjoy the incredible vistas of this family-friendly lake.

Captain’s note: If you were born after January 1, 1984, you must successfully pass a Missouri Boater Education class/test before operating any motorized vessel within the state. However, you may also obtain a one-time temporary permit at one of Table Rock Lake’s public marinas instead. The permit is valid for one week and there is a minimal fee.

Don’t own a boat or want to tow yours to the lake? Have no fear.


Wakeboard, Paddleboard, Scuba Dive – Enjoy Table Rock Lake

Before you go…

It bears repeating: always obey state boating laws and have the proper flotation devices on board and accessible. You should have a first-aid kit along with some blankets, and perhaps a change of clothes (or at least stow a few extra T-shirts and sweaters from fall to spring).

Your cellphone might not work everywhere on the lake, so consider investing in a marine radio. You can buy a handheld floating marine radio for less than $100 and it might just save your life. You’ll be able to access channel 16 (official emergency channel) to seek fast help whenever needed. Boat-to-boat and other communications should be directed to another channel. If possible, get a marine radio with NOAA weather alert capabilities. Storms can pop up out of nowhere in the Ozark Mountains, so pay attention to weather alerts and head for shore if severe weather threatens.

If natural beauty, clear water, and compelling places to explore are your thing, visit Table Rock Lake. It’s the place to be for channel cruising, cove-hopping, fishing, wake surfing, and more. Just splash your vessel into the water and go.

If natural beauty, clear water, and compelling places to explore are your thing, visit Table Rock Lake.

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