Monday, August 11, 2008

Ha Ha Tonka State Park

In August 2008, my husband and I planned a week-end visit to Ha Ha Tonka State Park located near Camdenton, Missouri. Upset I was unable to find many photos or information on the park, I determined to post my own photos and commentary to assist any future travelers.

Ha Ha Tonka is a Day Use Only Park (no camping). In less than 8 hours we were able to tour the majority of the sites. I found the Castle Ruins interesting but my favorite hike was back to the clear, blue Ha Ha Tonka Spring.

Feel free to post your own travel comments, recommendation or tips about visiting the park.


Chuck, Natalie & Wiley the Wonder Dog

The Island Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

The trek up Island Trail is steep. You may wish to bring a dog to pull you up the hill.
View of the steps leading down to the cave.
View of entrance to the cave. You must have a pre-arranged guide to take you inside.

View of the inside of the cave taken throught the bars. It looks pretty tight. There more caves located within the park as well as, commercial caves located outside the park nearby.
Wiley the Wonder dog considers spulunking.
Children swimming where the spring water flows into the Lake.
A popular swim hole on the other side of the Island.
Boats moored off the swimming hole pictured above.
Mist on the spring water.
Ha Ha Tonka Mist

The Island Trail makes a circle around the Island. We were unable to see "Balanced Rock" because the trail was closed for maintenance.

Spring Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

View of the Castle Ruins from 250 below at the entrance to Spring Trail.

View of the Water Tower from entrance to Spring Trail. This is a popular boating and swimming area on the Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks.

Picnic area and entrance to Spring Trail.

An old grist mill stood at this location at one time. Notice the grist wheel to the right.

Another view of the Ruins a little further along the trail.

Grist mill area.

Green pond with ferns. It appears the water was diverted along the Island to power the mill.

Channel along the Island.

The water is a steady 58 degrees all year around. Notice the mist that forms when the cool spring water meets the warmer outside air.

Panel explaining the spring. The spring discharges 48 million gallons of water daily.

Boardwalk the half mile walk back to the spring. This is the boardwalk seen from the Ruins.

The water is a lovely turquoise color and alive with plants & fish.

Another view along the channel with the bluffs towering above.

Ha Ha Tonka spring is the 12th largest spring in Missouri.

A million shades of blue and green greet you along the hike to the spring.

Ha Ha Tonka Spring.

The spring emits from this rock face. The water appears very deep and is very clear.

The Water Tower and Dell Rim Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

A wooded boardwalk takes you back to the Water Tower.

The steps up to the 80 foot tall Water Tower are strenuous.

The wooden boardwalk overlooks the "Whispering Dell Sinkhole".

A close up view of the Water Tower which was burned by vandals in 1976.

You cannot go inside the Water Tower but I was able to stick my camera inside to take an interior photo. I believe the Water Tower once had living quarters below for servants.

A common member of the Blue-and-Black swallowtail butterfly family.

Ha Ha Tonka is considered a wonderful example of "Karst" Topography. Karst topography is typified by caves, springs and sinkholes. Above is a picture of Whispering Dell Sinkhole which was formed by a partial cavern collapse.

Signboard along boardwalk explaining the sinkhole. This Missouri State Park is well marked and very informative.

Whispering Dell sinkhole is 150 feet deep.

Another angle of the Water Tower.

The Missouri Archives contains an interesting old photo of the Water Tower at:

The Natural Bridge and the Colosseum Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Trail head entrance back to the Natural Bridge and the Colosseum.

The Natural Bridge is 70 feet wide, 60 feet across and over 100 feet high.

Looking out toward the Colosseum from under the "Bridge".

Along the trail looking back at the Bridge.

Close up of the Bridge.

The Colosseum is a large sink hole over 500 feet long and 300 feet wide. If I understand correctly, the bridge was formed when a cave collapsed. The bridge is what remains of what was once the roof of the cave.

The bridge is listed with the Natural Arch and Bridge Society at:

Gunter's Springs Post Office at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

This old stone post office literally sits about one foot off Highway D.

The area used to be called "Gunter's or Gunter's Big Springs". Around 1895 the name was changed to the more lyrical "Ha Ha Tonka".

The Post Office was established in 1872 and continued in operation until 1937.

Robert Snyder Castle Ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Entrance to the pathway up to the Castle Ruins. The quarter mile pathway is paved and provides splendid views of the Spring and the Lake of the Ozarks which lie 250 feet below.

Informational panel on the Castle Ruins with pictures of the Castle before the fire and the story of the Robert M. Snyder family who built the castle.

Old picture of the Castle before the fire (as seen on Missouri State Park Panel pictured above).

Bedroom in the castle (as seen on Missouri State Park Panel above).

Living area of Castle (as seen on Missouri State Park Panel above).

Robert McClure Snyder (as seen on Missouri State Park Panel pictured above).

Entry into the Castle (as seen on Missouri State Park Panel pictured above).

Dining area of Castle (as seen on Missouri State Park Panel pictured above).

View of the Castle on fire in 1942 (as seen on the Missouri State Park Panel pictured above).

View from the first "turn out" on the walk to the Castle Ruins. Below is the "Niangua Arm" of the Lake of the Ozarks. Construction of the Castle began in 1905, construction of the Lake of the Ozarks began on August 6, 1929 and wasn't completed until April 1931.

The turn outs provide stunning views of the countryside. The lower glass panels make it easy for children (and dogs) to see as well.

The view of the boardwalk to Ha Ha Tonka spring from 250 feet above.

Another view of the spring from the bluff above it.

While construction of the Castle began in 1905, it was not completed until 16 years later.

The Castle was the dream of Robert McClure Snyder, a prominent Kansas City businessman who purchased more than 5,000 surrounding acres.

Mr. Snyder was tragically killed in one of Missouri's first automobile accidents in 1906 and never saw his Castle completed.

Mr. Snyder's sons eventually completed a scaled down version of the Castle.

Mr. Snyder was apparently a self-made man, becoming wealthy through the wholesale grocery business, real estate speculation, banking, utilities and oil & natural gas wells.

Mr. Snyder wanted a European style castle and even brought workmen from Europe to help build his dream retreat.

The Castle rose over three stories high.

Notice the arched support in what would have been the cellar.

Some visitors view the Ruins. You cannot go inside the Castle itself.

The Castle grounds also included nine green houses, a stone stable and a 80-foot water tower.

The Snyder family eventually leased the house to be used as a hotel. Sparks from a chimney ignited the roof on fire. The stone stable burnt the same day.

Front of the Castle. In the foreground are the remnants of a water fountain with the pipes still protruding from the ground.

The view from the front of the Castle would have been beautiful.

Steps leading from the front of the house to the fountain area.

A visitor and her dog enjoy the view.

Side view of the Castle ruins.

Interior shot of the Castle.

This area appears to have been the Kitchen. There is an iron rod which extends across the fireplace on which to hang pots and kettles. It seems logical the kitchen would have been in the back of the Castle though no floor plan of the Castle was available to confirm our hypothesis.

It's not hard to image cellars full of wine instead of green grass.

An item in the New York Times dated January 2, 1900, stated Robert McClure Snyder was married to Sibyl MacKenzie of Boston. (I assume this was Robert McClure Snyder, Jr.) The article further noted that President McKinley and Senator Hanna sent congratulatory telegrams. Obviously, the Snyder family were Movers and Shakers of the early 20th Century.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is located about five miles Southwest of Camdenton, Missouri.

Ha Ha Tonka became a Missouri State Park in 1978.

View of the Castle as you approach up the pathway with what appears to have been the Porte Coche.

View of the Castle as you approach up the pathway.

The stone for the Castle came from nearby quarries.

View from the top of the Bluff.

In August 2008, my husband and I visited Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Camdenton, Missouri. Prior to our visit, I attempted to find information and pictures on the park and could locate very little of either. As a result, I decided to publish some of my pictures for individuals like me who may want to learn more about the park before visiting. Feel free to post your own pictures and experiences for fellow travelers.

For more information, you may also wish to visit: