Park Office: 573-346-2986 - Website: http://www.mostateparks.com/
It contains over 3,600 acres on the Niangua Arm of the Lake of
the Ozarks and is located five miles southwest of Camdenton on State
There are 12 hiking trails (16 miles total) of various lengthwhich
take you to such places as Devil¹s Kitchen and Turkey Pen Hollowand
there are 8 known caves. The park has numerous picnic areas, two
of which are shelters that can be rented for events and a playground.
A Trail and Natural Area Guide is available at the visitor's
center at the park entrance, along with outside exhibits. Visitors
for the day can easily arrive by boat or car. (No overnight camping.)
Around the turn of the century, Robert McClure Snyder, a prominent
Kansas City businessman, learned of the beauty of the Ha Ha Tonka
area and journeyed there. He was so impressed with its rugged grandeur
that he began purchasing much of the surrounding land and eventually
acquired over 5,000 acres.
hatched the dream of building a private retreat that would rival
European style castles. He imported stone masons from Scotland and
a European supervisor was hired to ensure authentic construction
techniques. Kansas City architect, Adrian Van Brunt, designed the
three-and-a-half story masterpiece. A central hallway rose the entire
height of the building. In addition, a stone stable, an 80-foot-tall
water tower and nine greenhouses were built on the estate. The stone
and timber used in construction were taken from the immediate vicinity
and hauled by mule team. Construction of the complex began in 1905.
But for Snyder, Ha Ha Tonka remained only a dream. In 1906, he
was involved in a car accident on Independence Boulevard in Kansas
City and was killed (he was one of the first automobile owners in
the city). The interior of the castle remained unfinished until
1922 when Snyder's sons, Robert Jr., Leroy and Kenneth completed
the upper floors of the building.
The Snyder family then faced years of adversity in trying to keep
Ha Ha Tonka in the family. They were forced to sell Snyder's
natural gas supply business to Eastern interests. A long, legal
battle against Union Electric ensued over the waters of the Lake
of the Ozarks that were encroaching upon the natural spring-fed
lake at the foot of Ha Ha Tonka cliff. They finally leased the mansion
to a Mrs. Ellis who operated it as a hotel.
In 1942, all the dreams came to an end. Sparks from one of Ha
Ha Tonka's many fireplaces ignited the roof and within hours
the huge castle was gutted, as was the stable. What remained were
the stark, devastated outside walls that still brood on the edge
of the cliff. The State of Missouri purchased the estate in 1978
and opened it to the public as a State Park.
The natural surroundings equal the impressiveness of the ruins.
Geologically, the area is an example of "karst" topography,
characterized by sinks, caves, underground streams and natural bridges.
Huge caves have collapsed and created a large theater-like pit known
as the coliseum. Legend has it the coliseum was used for Native
American tribal meetings. One of Missouri's largest springs
(pictured below) is located in the park and feeds an average of
48 million gallons of water a day into the Niangua Arm of the Lake.
For those who have not yet seen the spring, castle and park, words
fail to do it justice. Discovering it is something each visitor
considers a personal and memorable experience.