Boating at Stockton Lake Missouri

Stockton Lake Marina-Stockton State Park Missouri

For Father’s Day this year I really wanted to take my husband, Tim, out onto the lake and have him teach our son Cole and I how to handle a boat, especially by the dock.  He emphatically said “Not on a holiday weekend”, which was probably smart though disappointing.  So, on a random weekday, we set out to Stockton Lake Marina at the state park and rented a pontoon boat with a 90 horsepower engine.

Joey, one of the marina workers, handled all my manic questions beautifully and professionally.  He assured me that there was a bimini on the boat (it’s been 98-102 in Missouri lately) and the rental would cost $X amount and no more.  Previously, boat rentals on most lakes in SW Missouri may have had a hefty deposit against your debit/credit card until their boat was returned in good condition.  This was not the case for this rental, but I’m sure that could change at any time.  This extra deposit makes the idea of a 4 hour rental a little daunting.

We took some of the family on this trip including Cole, Darby and her boyfriend Tristan.  The 3 kids were born after 1984, which is important as anyone born before that date is grandfathered in to escape the need for a boating “license”.  I suppose the need for a boating license came about with the increased sales of boats to people who had no idea what “right of way” means out on the water where there are no marked lanes and your boat has no brakes (though my foot always looks for it).  The Missouri State Highway Patrol takes care of issuing this license and you can find more information here:

20′ 90 Horsepower Pontoon Boat

First off, I will tell you that I didn’t hit anything too hard with the bow or stern of the boat!  Second, I will tell you that Tim is a terrible boating instructor. We love watching the Broncos Guru YouTube channel every Sunday for Boneheaded Boaters of the Week!  It is a great way to vicariously live the boating life and learn what not to do when you are out on the water or trying to dock your boat.  One of his consistent pieces of advice when near the ramp or the dock is never go faster than you’re willing to hit something!  This is great advice for newbie boaters.  Check him out if you are thinking about boating as a new hobby or just want a laugh.  Broncos Guru is a much better boating instructor than my husband!

 I managed to back the boat out of the marina slip and make it through the breakwater, (which is larger than it looks from a distance) without any mishaps and with Tim constantly telling me not to over steer.  Boats have delayed reaction, it’s not a car with 4 tires AND the currents/wind are pushing you as well-steering is definitely a skill.

Stockton is famous for sailing in this area and is certainly a windy lake.  You have to find out of the way, calm inlets to anchor your vessel and jump into the water because even with an anchor, the wind will just push your boat away and you will have to swim to chase it down.  We tooled around the lake looking for spots to swim, enjoying the wind and the company for about 3 hours, eating the picnic lunch I had packed and taking turns driving the boat.  As it was the middle of the week, Tim was correct and there were very few boaters out on the water, which made learning how to come up to plane, how to find inlets and anchor much easier than on a weekend.  Joey had given us a map of the entire lake which helped in finding out of the way, deep areas to cool off and keep the pontoon boat safe from harm.  The ability to trim (lift and lower) the outboard engine is disabled on the rental boats from the marina as the propellers were being damaged by new boaters who didn’t understand how or when to trim the engine for safe anchoring.

Of course, bringing the boat back into the marina did not happen without bumping the dock once or maybe twice-who’s counting?  Joey was on the dock, ready to grab the lines, pull us in and tie us off.   He filled the tank while telling us about the otters that play under the dock interfering with the electronic connection between the pump and the register inside the marina store.  Of course, the fuel is in addition to the rental fee.

View from the dock of the marina.

 My advice for this type of adventure is to do some research first, watch a few videos and just take the boating class online.  If you know a boat person, entice them to come along on your first trip out to give advice and instruction.  I would have never attempted this alone.  Water of any type deserves respect and should be treated carefully.  Storms can blow up unexpectedly, engines can fail, the current can move your boat quicker than you believed possible.

In the end, learning to handle a boat is a lot like learning to drive a car.  You just have to dive in, after learning the rules, and do it.  The currents change, sandbars pop up, limited rain or flooding changes the water scape and you need to pay attention.   Now that I have a better understanding of boating, I would be comfortable going with Cole or Darby, though I would still rather entice the family boating expert out with me-terrible instructor or not.

Kayaking Springfield Lake

Springfield Lake Boathouse

Kayaking has become one of my favorite outdoor activities over the years and I always make plans to do more of it whenever possible.  Last summer I was able to get in a session of stand-up paddle boarding with ShowMe SUP ( and I was also able to kayak Springfield Lake with my youngest son, Cole.  Unfortunately, that was all I was able to get in last season, due to working full time and other obstacles like not having my own vehicle for 5 months or so.

So, this year I am making plans to get out in a kayak more often!!!  I am making a promise to myself to use my days off in the middle of the week to do some serious searching of awesome kayaking experiences and letting you know how they went!  For now I will share my last kayaking trip on Springfield Lake.

Small waterfall from runoff

The thing I love about kayaking on a lake is that you are bound in and the currents running under most lakes are less dangerous than on rivers.  I have been on some hairy, scary float trips ( that had my adrenaline burning through any alcohol I may have consumed, so now I don’t even bother having a drink while floating on the rivers anymore.  It’s just not worth it.  In my opinion lakes are also great learning experiences for new small craft boaters to learn how to maneuver their craft whether it’s a canoe, kayak or paddleboard.  Lakes are also a great opportunity to work on boating skills with a partner if you have a dual seat craft before having to rely on each other in a crisis elsewhere.

Cole and I met up at Lake Springfield Boat House located at 5324 S. Kissick Ave Springfield MO on a warm September day 2021.   I made sure to bring plenty of water for this trip as well as snacks and sunscreen.  When you’re paddling and getting wet from splashing, deliberately or accidentally, you can easily forget the sun beating down on your exposed legs and feet.  Lake Springfield Boat House has reasonable prices for single and dual craft and provides everything you need to get out on the water safely including help shoving off.

Leaving the boathouse and heading north then east toward the Missouri Veterans Cemetery we passed bluffs, herons, and picturesque homes perched over the lake, some with their own dock access.  We squeezed into some inlets that were muddy and shallow to get a closer look at some flower or fauna that attracted our interest, both of us in single kayaks.  We passed fishermen angling from the banks and from their own kayaks along the way.  I think what I love most about kayaking is the quiet at certain points of traveling on the water and being able to stop along the way without worrying about a propeller or the depth of the water.

Heron are plentiful on Lake Springfield

Lake Springfield Boathouse opens April 15 and operates through October 15, weather permitting.  For about 2 hours for $25, kayaking is a great shoulder workout and an opportunity to spend time with people you love doing something different and sometimes challenging.  I will always jump at the chance to get out into nature with family or alone whenever possible (unless it’s really awful weather-wise).  Cole and I visited Galloway Grill after our lake trip, which gave us even more time to talk and support a local eatery.  I highly recommend them, especially for lunch.  So get down to Springfield Lake Boat House when the weather warms up and have some fun on Springfield Lake.

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!