For Matt Taylor, the magnetic draw of the lake is in his blood. As a two-year-old he played on the bank while his father fished. A decade or so later, Fellows was where he developed a lifelong love of sailing.
“This lake is incredibly fickle,” he says, with a smile that betrays deep admiration. “It has really weird wind, but if you can learn to read the wind and sail this lake, you can sail anywhere.”
The 860-acre lake was built by City Utilities of Springfield in 1955 to provide drinking water for the city of Springfield. Almost 30 years later, the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks (WCO) was created to monitor and safeguard the water quality at Fellows. That means there’s no swimming, windsurfing or fireworks allowed, but the lake remains a choose-your-own-adventure playground for outdoor lovers. Whether you want a view of the water over your handlebars, a chance at landing a supersized walleye or a lesson in trimming the mainsail — you’ve got your pick at Fellows Lake.
For Matt, the opportunity to come back to the place that gave him so much joy as a kid couldn’t be ignored. When he joined WCO as the lake’s operations manager last year, he already had firsthand knowledge of how the right introduction to Fellows could turn a visitor into a lifelong advocate for its future.
The lake’s wide variety of activities make up more than an outdoor wonderland for sailors, mountain bikers, anglers and more; they’re all important touchpoints for making visitors aware of the importance of the watershed and fit right into the WCO’s mission of education and outreach.
“If you get a child excited about an activity and involved in what you’re trying to protect, they’ll be passionate about it, too,” Matt says. “We look for different ways to engage youth and adults in outdoor recreation and sports so they can learn to protect the resource. That’s our jam.”
Since WCO took charge of recreation at the lake and the surrounding 20-acre Miller Park in March 2021, momentum gained around upgrading the infrastructure. A state-of-the-art dock replaced the original wood planking. A new park store, kayak launches, restrooms and an interactive, ADA-accessible playground are all on the horizon, with the potential to construct additional accessible fishing piers and boat launches, an observation platform and amphitheatre.
The amenities serve a multitude of different user groups who are introducing newcomers to the Ozarks and the outdoors. Spring is a particularly busy time of year on the water during May’s muskie fishing workshop at Fellows Lake — one of only five publicly accessible stocked lakes in the state where anglers can try for the famed “fish of 10,000 casts.”