Naked On The Lake
Alcohol, drugs, and sex. Missouri State Water Patrol says these three things combine to plague the Lake of the Ozarks every summer.
"There can be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 boats in [Party Cove]," said Dean Bartlett of the Water Patrol.
"We have a lot of calls here, and we have a lot of very serious calls here," said Water Patrol's Lt. Nick Humprey.
These guys are responsible for patrolling Anderson Cove, also known as "Party Cove," but they find that it's next to impossible.
"Usually they'll line up starting about right here, and they just anchor together and tie together," said Bartlett.
"Probably the most common violation is boating while intoxicated," said Humprey.
Bartlett and Humphrey spent two separate weekends at the Lake. The first on a Friday, the next on a Saturday. In those two days, KOMU learned just what makes Party Cove so dangerous.
"Missouri leads the nation in boating-while-intoxicated arrests," Humphrey said. "Most of those arrests come from Lake of the Ozarks, and most of the Lake of the Ozarks arrests come from Anderson Cove, or commonly known as Party Cove."
According to authorities, alcohol, boating and Party Cove should never mix.
"Well, your body is put into an environment that it's not used to, where you have the sun, the engine noise, the waves, and the unstableness of the boat, and the last thing that it's going to get rid of is the alcohol," said Bartlett.
Beyond the alcohol, patrolmen Humphrey and Bartlett told us of a different problem, one they say makes Party Cove unique. Something that makes Party Cove the mecca of X-rated behavior.
"It can be anything from everything," Bartlett said. "Anything from females being totally nude, males being totally nude, to sexual misconduct, you know, that you wouldn't see anywhere and possibly on TV."
"People that are exposing themselves and participating in lewd behavior and open sex acts," said Humphrey.
Bartlett and Humphrey say the nudity and a number of these open sex acts end up on pornographic websites like partycovexxx.com. It's filled with photos and sexually explicit videos created on the water at Party Cove. While Bartlett and Humphrey say the pornography is not illegal, having sex in public to create some of these photos and videos is.
"It's against the law to expose a person's genitals, or have any type of sexual touching in public, or have open sex acts that could cause affront to others," said Humphrey.
"It's sexual misconduct and it's a mandatory court appearance," Bartlett said. "They have to appear in front of a judge and explain what they were doing."
The patrolmen say some violators might even have to register as sex offenders, but only if the officer can catch them. The tightly packed boats in the cove make it nearly impossible to reach anyone more than a few boats away.
"You know, we've had incidents that happened back in here before, we do have a hard time getting back in here, it just comes down to having to weave in and out of boats, having boats separate. It's definitely one of the challenges in working this area of the lake," said Humphrey.
But the officers do try. Aside from enforcing the law, both are working to protect the lake's fading family reputation.
"People do go back in there with their kids, in this cove, it is a public access cove, and people don't want to see that here, so we're trying to do the best we can to eliminate that problem," said Bartlett.
The Water Patrol says it arrests a handful of people every weekend for having sex in public at Party Cove. The patrolmen say the Lake of the Ozarks is one of the only places in the country stuff like this happens, with sex and rampant alcohol abuse. Water Patrol also said if people were to behave on land like they do on the water, the violators would face immediate arrest.
The situation is so bad at the lake that it's drawn attention from researchers in California. The California Research Institute is trying to develop a national standard for field sobriety tests conducted on the water. The lake is the place they chose to study it.