Windermere Cove

Hidden along the shores of the Lake of the Ozarks in Roach, Mo., is the town of Cave-Pump (now called Windermere Cove). The little town grew up, literally, around a hole in the ground that revealed a deep cave perfect for refrigeration and providing access to fresh, spring-fed water.

The Delaware and Osage Indian tribes originally occupied the cave and its surrounding land. The area was officially “settled” in 1829 and since then has been developed and re-developed several times.

In the beginning, there wasn’t a lake, just miles of fertile farmland and convenient cover for horse thieves, gamblers and counterfeiters--the fictitious Bank of Niangua minted counterfeit Mexican dollars around the time of the Civil War. This eventually led to the Slicker War--an armed dispute among the counterfeiters.

In 1931, Cave-Pump morphed into Windermere Cove when the Bagnel Dam was built, backing up the Osage River to form the now famous Lake of the Ozarks.

The Windermere Club

A short six years later, in 1937, interested parties developed the Windermere Club, named after the lands surrounding the famous Windermere Lake in the United Kingdom (for information on the U.K. lake region and Windermere Lake, see U.K. Lake District, page 22). This new campground featured 400 acres and 21 buildings (most still in existence) for the specific, free use of private campers. Today, the club has grown to 1,300 acres, much of it still undeveloped.

Through the years, this camp and now conference center have played host to a multitude of conferences, camping trips, parties and family vacations and, in the process, built a legacy of excellence.

The bustling camp and center are open year-round and offer wonderful diverse events:

* Show Me The Clowns--Clowns from all over the world training and sharing their skills

* Freedom Celebration--The annual Fourth of July extravaganza

* Christmas at Windermere—Family-friendly, holiday fun

* Reality Check--New Year’s celebration for high school and college kids

Besides the special events, Windermere’s real claim to fame is aquatics. As the Web site boldly claims, “If we don’t have it, we are in a location that can certainly accommodate it.”

Since Windermere is located right on the lake, patrons can enjoy boating (even bringing their own and docking it at the resort), water skiing, jet skis, water trampolines, pontoon boat cruises, swimming pool (and slides), paddle boats, hydro-bikes, fishing and more.

Here’s a brief overview of the amenities offered:

* 18 Cedar Grove Cabins, built in 1958

* Marina for water sports and fishing

* Boat dock with 41 stalls for water-recreation equipment

* Children’s building for indoor activities

* Recreation area, including a tennis court, basketball court, shuffle board area and playground

* Volleyball court

* Swimming pool

* Greenhouse

* “The Edge,” a rope challenge course

* A teeter-totter, third aqua jump, two water logs and jet skis

* “Windervision,” an information center to keep guest s informed of the goings on at Windermere

And, it’s open to all. Even though the center is run by the Baptist organization, any group or individual is welcome to rent space or a room and experience the fun. As Dan Bench, Executive Director of Windermere, states, “I want everyone to know that at Windermere groups of young individuals will be challenged in many water sports, where team building is a strong point.”

Spelunking Anyone?

Of course, that original hole in the ground is still there, as attractive as ever to visitors. Guests can give themselves a five-minute, self-guided tour or can follow a tour-guide for a more in-depth look and understanding of the history that made this cave and resort center so popular for so long.

If that’s not enough to hold their attention, patrons can visit the New Wilderness Creek Campus, home to 84 new lodge rooms (accommodating more than 600 guests) and the 15,000-seat auditorium to listen to whichever speaker is visiting that day. Both are nestled on a wooded hillside overlooking a natural creek winding through the valley on its journey to the lake.

It’s probable that your camping facilities aren’t quite this robust, but it’s interesting to see how a geologically significant feature can shape the future of an area. It’s possible your department is sitting on a gold mine--or cave.

Helen Downey is a freelance writer in Medina, Ohio. She can be reached via e-mail at