FOCUS ON MISSOURI: Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Camdenton

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Ha Ha Tonka State Park

The name Ha Ha Tonka is from the Osage Indian phrase “Ha Ha Tonka” meaning “Laughing Spirit” in reference to the gushing springs.

Imposing architecture and breathtaking scenery combine to make Ha Ha Tonka State Park one of Missouri’s most treasured spots.

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Located on the Lake of the Ozarks, the park features the stone ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century castle began in the early 1900’s by a prominent Kansas City businessman, Robert McClure Snyder, high atop a bluff. His tragic death, one of the first automobile fatalities in Missouri (on Independence Boulevard in Kansas City), brought an end to the rise of a powerful businessman, his legacy, and the building of the castle at Ha Ha Tonka.

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Ha Ha Tonka in the early 1900’s

For sixteen years, the castle remained unfinished. Snyder’s sons Robert, Jr., Leroy, and Kenneth continued the work but the pace was slow and not nearly as elaborate as the original plans. In 1922, the interior and upper floors were finally completed. During this time, Robert Snyder, Jr., lived at the castle.

By the time the castle was finally complete, the family businesses were in decline. The family eventually leased the building to a woman named Mr.s Ellis who operated it as a hotel for the next several years. In 1942, sparks from one of the many fireplaces ignited the roof, gutting much of the structure.

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The building sat abandoned for many years and has been the target of vandals and a victim of the elements until in 1978, the State of Missouri purchased the estate and opened it as a State park.

The park of approximately 3,000 acres on the Niangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, has more than 15 miles of trails traversing the park leading visitors to sinkholes, natural bridges, caves and down to the lake for many fishing, boating, and swimming possibilities.

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More information about the park may be found here.


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