Spring Camping at Lake of the Ozarks Ha Ha Tonka State Park

So the spring camping and kayaking season is starting up again, and I am busy planning several trips to some pretty great places here in Missouri.  A friend of mine did me a huge favor, unbeknownst to her of course, by choosing Ha Ha Tonka state park as the place for the camping trip she is hosting.  I was thrilled.  I spent a lot of time here when I was growing up, mostly as part of Girl Scouts, where we made several trips there to earn one badge or another.  I decided to write a bit about the park, because it absolutely ranks on the top 5 of my list of the most beautiful places in Missouri. 

Over 3,679 acres of land in the Niangua arm of the grand Lake of the Ozarks are available for nature lovers of all ages. You will have the chance to explore dark caves or travel down the back-country hiking trails. You can view castle ruins as you overlook the land below you while standing on a cliff overlooking the lake. If you are a nature lover who is visiting the Lake of the Ozarks, you will love Ha Ha Tonka State Park, I promise! 


Located five miles directly southwest from Camdenton, this state park offers so much to do. The hiking trails that send you to Turkey Pen Hollowland and the Devils Kitchen are amazing.  There are a lot of caves to explore here as well. If you are looking for a less adventurous activity during your stay in this Lake of the Ozarks park you can enjoy a lengthy picnic with family and friends in the picnic area or rent one of the shelters for larger gatherings.

There are an additional 15 miles of trails to explore in Ha Ha Tonka State Park. On these trails, you will become lost in the beauty of the scenery, the natural springs, rolling hills and lush forest. From the ruined castle, which was the beginning of the Ha Ha Tonka legacy, to the numerous caves, bluffs, geologic sinkholes, and of course the natural bridge, the nature all around you is simply astounding.



Of course, it is not only the beauty of the area that takes Lake Ozarks visitors in when they visit the state park. The history of Ha Ha Tonka is also something that makes people interested in the park itself. The vision of Ha Ha Tonka was created by Robert McClure Snyder around the turn of the century. Snyder fell in love with the rugged and simplistic beauty of the area and acquired as much land as he could, which turned out to be around 5,000 acres.


The goal at this point was to transfer this area of the Lake of the Ozarks into an amazing private retreat that was created with the style of European castles. Stone masons came from Scotland and supervisors of European decent were used to ensure authenticity. The main castle was designed as a three and a half story mansion that was unlike anything in the area. The castle ruins still stand and can be explored. It was once destroyed in a fire.  The ruins overlook the breathtaking Ha Ha Tonka Springs and the Lake of the Ozarks. All of this beautiful scenery is taken in while you stand upon a majestic 250 feet bluff.


Sadly, Snyder would never live to see his dream of the private Ha Ha Tonka resort. While construction began in 1905, Snyder died in a fatal car crash in 1906. It would take until the 1920s (around the time the Lake of the Ozarks was officially being formed) for Snyders sons to finish the upper floors of the castle.

Visiting Ha Ha Tonka State Park-Lake TV

Later the Snyder sons would spend years trying to keep their fathers dream in the family. Unfortunately, in 1942 a fireplace in the castle started a fire that would destroy the castle to its present ruins that are viewable today. In 1978, the state of Missouri purchased the land and opened it as a state park.


 Ha Ha Tonka is home to one of the largest springs in Missouri and can be seen by water or hiking trail. The park is known for its vast geological land, which includes underground streams, endless caves, and Native American pits that were known as the coliseum.

I can't wait to go back to this park because it holds a lot of great memories for me.  It might even feel like returning home again.  May needs to get here quick! I'll be sure to post about the trip and share some photos of this great Missouri state park.

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