Life in Kimberling City

Kimberling City dates back to the 1970s. But the small town’s roots go much deeper, and include wagons, campgrounds, a ferry and lots of lake time. Hear more about it from the people who know it best.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

Kimberling City wasn’t founded because of a person. It was founded because of a lake. “Kimberling City was settled as a direct result of the construction of Table Rock Dam and Reservoir by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” says Judi Seager, Kimberling City’s city clerk. The city’s date of incorporation only goes back to 1973, but that’s certainly not the beginning of the story.

Settlers began pouring into the region just after the Civil War, with the creation of the Wilderness Road of the Ozarks. Wagons travelled to and from Springfield on the road, bringing their goods to the city for sale. Those wagons eventually reached Radical Campground, where Kimberling City is located today.

Those were the days before the lake. Back then, it was the White River that presented issues for wagons. During times of high water, wagons had to travel on a ferry to cross the river.

In 1959, the “new” bridge was built over the lake. When the bridge was completed, there were plans to tear the previous one down. However, those plans came to naught. “The spring rains came so quickly that they didn’t have time to tear it down, so they just left it,” says Rudy Johnson, pharmacist at Kimberling City Pharmacy. However, that old bridge now offers a new perk. “It’s great for fishing because the fish have a place to hide,” says Johnson.

Today, the town is a lot different than it was even just a few years ago. “There’s five times as many businesses here,” says Johnson. “It’s rapidly changing.” He points to the large number of senior citizens who now call the town home, but also notes that it’s a melting-pot community.

The lake is the town’s primary draw, whether it’s for swimming, boating or a fishing tournament. But that’s not all the town has to offer. There’s also the annual Daisy Mae bowling tournament, now in its 46th year and expected to draw nearly 800 people this year. “It’s a pretty big tournament for this little bowling alley,” says Frogg Elkins, who is manager of the Hillbilly Bowl, where the tournament is located. Other locals agree that there’s fun to be had in Kimberling City. “There’s so much to do, you really want to come back,” says Gordon Shofner, owner of the Home-n-Hardware store.

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