Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

5 Tips for a Safe and Enjoyable Spring Harbor Hop

March 14, 2019 by Michael Kiel

The distant hum of boats on Lake of the Ozarks is symphonic to many. This huge body of water known by Missourians as “the Lake,” but known throughout the world as Lake of the Ozarks, awakens from its off-season slumber. In a couple of days, boaters throughout the Midwest and beyond will be navigating its waters for the 22nd annual Spring Harbor Hop on May 4, 2019.

Known locally as the official kickoff to the boating season, the Spring Harbor Hop is a great reason to gather up your family and friends for a fun day on the water. After all, it’s billed as the lake’s largest poker hop on the water. So, before loading up the boat with beach towels, sunscreen, and refreshments, have a plan for navigating the Lake’s best waterfront restaurants and marinas featured during the 2019 Spring Harbor Hop.

Here are a few tips for making sure you have a safe and enjoyable Harbor Hop:

  1. Harbor Hop kicks off at 9 AM and ends at 7 PM. Keep in mind, some checkpoints may not open until 11 AM and others may close at 5 PM. Enter the Harbor Hop by starting at any one of the participating locations. Once there, sign in and pay an optional $20 donation per seven card hand. A player may enter more than once. Players receive their first card at their signup location. From there, six more cards are drawn by hopping to six different locations—drawing one card per hand at each location. A player’s hand is complete once the seventh card is drawn. Heads up players, you have the option of drawing an eighth bonus card for an additional $5. Once you have seven cards, your hand is turned in at the checkpoint where your seventh card was drawn. All hands must be turned in by 7 PM. Winners are competing for gift certificates and will be notified by mail. Good luck!

    loto spring harbor hop 2019 listlots spring harbor hop 2019 map
  2. Many of the waterfront restaurants have pools, but not all of them are heated. Redhead’s pool is heated to 85 degrees and Dog Days’ pool should be warm by Saturday. Some other locations with heated pools include Backwater JacksBoathouse Lakeside Bar, and Camden on the Lake. For your convenience, a complete list of participating waterfront restaurants and marinas can be found above.
  3. "Lake of the Ozarks has more shoreline than the state of California." You may have heard this sometimes overused line in the Netflix series, Ozark. Why is this important? Smaller boats and cruisers may not have the time to hop great distances between checkpoints in order to pull seven cards before the 7 PM deadline. Having a plan of attack will not only ensure you have the time needed to turn in your seven-card draw, but it will allow you to spend quality time at some of your favorite places on the Lake.
  4. Make it a themed day on the water. The 145th annual Kentucky Derby is taking place the same day as Harbor Hop. Put on your best Derby attire and get to a spot with plenty of TVs in time to order a mint julep or two. Some of our favorite waterfront restaurants for the Derby include Paradise, Tap and Grill, and Redhead Lakeside Grill. The most exciting two minutes in sports starts at 5:50 PM so keep that in mind while you’re hopping around.  
  5. Boaters beware; this will be a very busy weekend at the lake. In addition to the Spring Harbor Hop, the 31st Annual Magic Dragon Street Meet Nationals takes place on the historic Bagnell Dam Strip from May 3rd - 5th. With this in mind, expect big crowds on land and water. Make sure your boat has all the required safety gear, which you’ll find below. Be safe, and watch your wake.

Photo Credit: Missouri Water Patrol

With over 40 plus exciting locations serving as Spring Harbor Hop checkpoints, boaters and their mates can carve out the locations that interest them the most. Without question, there’s a harbor hop plan that fits the lifestyle and mindset of just about everyone. The Spring Harbor Hop showcases the best of what the lake has to offer on the water. If you’re there to participate in the poker draw, it bears repeating, all hands must be turned in by the 7 PM deadline. Prizes are awarded to winners first through 10th place, as well as the four worst hands. Complete details, including the official rules, can be found on the official Harbor Hop website.

Consider this a relaxing day on the water whether you draw that perfect hand or not. The beauty of the Lake of the Ozarks manifests itself on and off the water. As boaters know, the best sunsets are on the water. As Missourians know, some of the best sunsets in Missouri are at the Lake of the Ozarks. Pamela Hansford Johnson, a novelist, says, “The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire.” Whether on a boat or lakeside, cap your spectacular day by taking in a sunset with family, friends, and fellow boaters. Whether you’re coming from Iowa, Kansas City, St. Louis, or beyond, settle into your favorite spot before, as Kenny Chesney sings, that “big orange ball” begins to sink into the water.

loto sunset

Harbor Hop veterans, do you have any tips for the newbies out there? Where do you plan on starting your Harbor Hop? Where do you plan on ending it? Join the conversation, we would love to hear from you!

Michael Kiel