Legend lives on at Lover’s Leap

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

Near the confluence of the Niangua and Osage Rivers along the south shore of the Lake of the Ozarks — mile marker 31.5 — a prominent bluff, said to be over 200 feet high, once overlooked the Osage River Valley prior to the filling of the lake in the 1930s.

According to legend, Lover’s Leap was where a fair Indian maiden flung herself to her death to escape capture and the fate of being wed to someone she didn’t love.

The great Osage Chief Okema — Eagle Eye — is said to have fallen in love with Winona, an Indian maiden and a sister to Chief Marabo of the Delaware Tribe. Winona, however, had a lover, Minetus, also a Delaware, to whom she had pledged her hand and rejected Okema. This of course enraged Okema, who pledged that Minetus must die. When Winona learned of Okema’s anger and his promise to slay her lover, she fled to the rocky bluff overlooking the Osage River some 200 feet below. Okema followed her, but arrived only to find Winona had flung herself off the precipice onto the jagged rocks below to escape her fate.

Winona’s lover Minetus, fearing Okema would cause his maiden harm, followed him to the overlook where a great battle ensued. During the course of the battle, a tomahawk, hurled at the head of Okema, instead struck one of his warriors. Minetus grappled with Okema, and in the desperate struggle both rolled headlong over the precipice and perished.
While it is a pretty good campfire story, the fact of the matter is that the rocky bluff was named by a William Baker in 1856 while attending a wedding ceremony in nearby Linn Creek. Whether he was overwhelmed by the spectacular view from the bluff, or the spirits being served at the wedding, Baker immediately christened the view Lover’s Leap and the name stuck.

The postcard was published by Stanton’s Novelty Company of Lake Ozark, Missouri. It was never mailed.

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