Day Trip - Ruins, Rocks, Woods, and a Spring.

  

Category:  Other

By:  dig  •  4 weeks ago  •  31 comments

Day Trip - Ruins, Rocks, Woods, and a Spring.

Yesterday was probably the last really nice day of the year in my neck of the woods, so I took a little afternoon trip over to a state park called Ha Ha Tonka, right outside of Camdenton, Missouri.

It's basically the remains of a secluded woodland estate begun by a wealthy businessman over a century ago, sitting atop a sheer bluff overlooking a spring-cut gorge, right on the edge of what is today the Niangua arm of Lake of the Ozarks. The state purchased it in 1978 and turned it into a hiking and recreation area.

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The Missouri Parks website has information about its history, but I found a more detailed version here... [source]


Ha Ha Tonka

(An Osage Indian phrase meaning “Laughing Spirit”)

In 1903 Robert McClure Snyder who was a wealthy business man from Kansas City, Missouri first visited the area around Ha Ha Tonka. He worked in the wholesale grocery business in St. Louis and later in Kansas City. He began to speculate in real estate, banking and utilities, eventually amassing a fortune. He was so impressed with the area that he eventually purchased some 2,500 acres envisioning a private retreat for his family. This is what he said “Here I will spend my leisure, secure from the worries of business and the excitement of city life. I will fish and loaf and explore the caves of these hills, with no fear of intrusion.”

In 1904 Snyder purchased the property from Robert G. Scott. Mr. Scott had surveyed the property as a possible railroad route in the early 1890’s but then thought that this idea was not feasible. He was taken by the scenic beauty, high bluffs, caves and natural springs. He had changed the settlement from the name “Gunter Springs” to “Ha Ha Tonka” in 1895. Mr. Snyder immediately began to make extensive improvements. He envisioned a European style castle with a center atrium rising three and one half stories to a skylight, nine greenhouses, a carriage house, and an 89 foot private water tower.

In 1905 construction began on the mansion. He utilized stonemasons from Scotland and they quarried stone and timber from the immediate area as a European supervisor managed every step of the construction. The three and a half story masterpiece was designed by Kansas City architect, Adrian Van Brunt, and included a central hallway that rose the entire height of the building, as well as a stone carriage house.

In 1906 Robert M. Snyder was killed in an automobile accident on Independence Boulevard in Kansas City. It was one of the state's first automobile accidents. The building of his mansion came to a halt at Ha Ha Tonka. The castle remained unfinished for sixteen years.

In 1922 Snyder’s sons Robert, Jr., Leroy, and Kenneth continued the work. The interior and upper floors were finally completed. The pace was slow and not nearly as elaborate as the original plans. The son Robert, Jr. lived in the castle.

In 1937 Robert Snyder, Jr. died. By this time the castle was finally complete. While he lived in the castle he was plagued by health problems. He cultivated an interest in local and regional history. He collected every book on the subject that he could get his hands on. He had a collection of over a thousand volumes. The family businesses began to decline and the depression and the court litigations (fighting the construction of Bagnell Dam) had depleted the family fortune and the surviving brothers were forced to take other financial steps with the mansion. They leased the building to a woman who operated the building as a hotel for the next several years.

In 1942 tragedy struck the castle when sparks from one of its many fireplaces ignited the roof. Within hours the mansion was gutted as well as the nearby carriage house. All that was left were the devastated outside walls of the mansion and the nearby water tower. Again the mansion was abandoned for the next 36 years.

In 1976 vandals torched the water tower and only the ruins of the castle remained. The water tower has since been restored to its original state.

In 1978 the State of Missouri purchased the estate and opened it to the public as a State Park.


All images should resize automatically to fit your screen, but they can be opened at a larger size in another tab or window if you want a closer look at anything.


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Hitting the road!

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Scenery along State Highway 5.

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Almost there.

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Going down U.S. 54, a mile or so outside of Camdenton. Ha Ha Tonka is just ahead and on the left.

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There now and looking down into the spring-cut gorge from the parking area below the ruins. The sun was really bright, and the late afternoon angle (low in the sky and to my front) made some of my shots turn out hazy like this one. Still worth showing, though.

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Zooming in on the spring-fed creek at the bottom while making my way up the trail from the parking area. That dead and weathered tree was just begging to be photographed. Couldn't pass it up.

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On the right are the ruins of the stable and carriage house.

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Another view.

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One more, from the side.

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There were some information graphics nearby.

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This one's about the mansion, which the park calls a "castle" for some reason. I find that rather annoying, but oh well.

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Robert McClure Snyder, the owner and builder.

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An old photo of the water tower and stable/carriage house, presumably photographed from the "castle."

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The "castle" as it was.

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The unfortunate conflagration in 1942. In color, too. No idea if it's an original or a B&W that was colorized later on.

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Walking up the trail and zooming in on the start of the Niangua branch of Lake of the Ozarks.

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Scenery on the other side of the trail.

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The ruined mansion.

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The position of the sun made some of my scenery shots difficult, but it turned out to be awesome for the mansion shots.

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The sun actually made the window openings seem to glow from this perspective.

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Walking around to the other side. No glow from this angle.

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The west side of the ruin.

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Another view.

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Another view.

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And one more, with the water tower visible in the distance.

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There was an observation platform right on the edge of the bluff.

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Looking back from the observation platform, in the direction of the water tower.

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The lake in the other direction.

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This was near the ruin. There was also a trail going down to the quarry, but the marker said it was a mile-long hike, so I skipped it.

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Going back down the trail to the parking area, on my way to the water tower.

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Looking back on the ruin. A bit hard to see, but it's in the upper right.

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The graphic at the start of the trail to the water tower.

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Looking back at the lake again, from a boardwalk on the water tower trail.

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Stairs going up to the water tower.

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Oblique perspective.

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Right under it.

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There was a gate keeping people out, but I stuck the camera through the bars and took a few shots.

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Looking out across the gorge from the water tower.

Next stop, the rock bridge.

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I hiked back and then drove over to a different parking area. This is the graphic at the start of the rock bridge trail.

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Hiking down to it.

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Looking out from under it. The air was noticeably cooler down here.

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Looking back at it from the trail on the other side.

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Continuing on down the trail a ways.

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The trail winds along one side of a bowl-shaped gorge called "the Colosseum." Here's where I stopped and turned back because I wanted to make my way around to the spring before I lost the light, and I needed to drive over to yet another parking area on the other side of the spring gorge.

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Going back under the rock bridge.

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The stairs back up to the parking area.

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This is a zoomed shot of the mansion from the other side of the gorge, after driving around to the parking area by the old post office, which I apparently forgot to take a picture of. As you can see, the evening light was coming on, and I still had to hike all the way down to the spring, which turned out to be a much longer hike than I expected.

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The spring trail had two directions at the start. I chose this one and it took me down the side of the gorge to the west (the wrong direction), ending at the bottom by a picnic area and the lake.

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From there the trail turned back east toward the spring. That's lake water on the left, not the spring creek.

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Scenery on the hillside to the right of the trail.

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More scenery, a bit further along.

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A zoomed shot of the bluff with the barely visible ruin at the top.

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Zoomed out a bit to show the spring creek, which the trail had just pulled up alongside. The shots have different exposures because I somehow managed to accidentally turn the bracketing camera setting on.

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The spring creek water.

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The spring, visible in the distance now, coming out from under the rock.

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Right about here the trail cuts through some rocks at the bottom of the gorge.

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Looking back at them.

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A graphic alongside the trail.

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Zoomed text.

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The pump on display nearby. 

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Arriving at the spring.

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According to Wikipedia it's the 14th largest spring in the Ozarks, with an average discharge of 74.3 cubic feet per second.

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Looking downstream from the observation platform.

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Looking down at the observation platform from the stairs that I would have discovered if I had chosen the other direction at the start of the trail.

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Looking downstream from about 80 feet up the hillside, with the mansion ruin slightly visible on top of the bluff.

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One thing about this side of the trail, though... lots and lots of stairs.

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And you're practically hanging off the side of a cliff in some places.

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You also have to go back down for a bit before you reach the top. That was depressing.

Scenic views, though, right?

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Finally at the top, looking down at the spring creek.

I wasn't prepared for that. If I'd known how long and steep those stairs were I probably would have just gone back the way I came.

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Directly across the gorge from the water tower.

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One last shot down towards the lake, and losing the light fast.

That was it. I had to hurry just to make it back to the parking area before it got completely dark on me.

I wasn't expecting the spring trail to be such a workout, but all in all I had a good time. It was a fun little outing on what was likely the last warm and sunny day of the year (it was actually in the mid-to-upper 70s, which is unseasonably warm). The forecast has it turning cooler and then cold from here on out.

Thanks for coming along with me. :)


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Dig
Masters Guide
1  author  Dig    4 weeks ago

From what I've read there are a few caves on the property as well, but they're all closed at the moment. I didn't give myself enough time for them anyway. Maybe some other time.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2  Kavika     4 weeks ago

Great story and photos, Dig. As many times as I've been through that area, I never went to Ha Ha Tonka. Thanks for the guided tour. 

Seems like the family had a string of really bad luck with the ''castle''. Killed in an auto accident in the very early 1900s was somewhat of an unwanted part of history. 

Perhaps it was a gift from the Osage people who were driven from the area and forced to Oklahoma. A curse from the ''People of the Middle Water'' to anyone trying to settle on the land. 

As a side note they are filming a movie currently on a part of the history of the Osage once they were forced to Oklahoma. ''Murders of the Flower Moon'' starring Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Wonderful photo essay and a history lesson. 

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
2.1  author  Dig  replied to  Kavika @2    4 weeks ago
Seems like the family had a string of really bad luck with the ''castle''. Killed in an auto accident in the very early 1900s was somewhat of an unwanted part of history.
Perhaps it was a gift from the Osage people who were driven from the area and forced to Oklahoma. A curse from the ''People of the Middle Water'' to anyone trying to settle on the land.

Well, the quoted history says the name Ha Ha Tonka means "laughing spirit" in Osage, so maybe you're onto something there.

As a side note they are filming a movie currently on a part of the history of the Osage once they were forced to Oklahoma. ''Murders of the Flower Moon'' starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to that.

Wonderful photo essay and a history lesson.

Thanks, Kav.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3  Trout Giggles    4 weeks ago

I wanna fish that crick

Great photos, Dig!

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
3.1  author  Dig  replied to  Trout Giggles @3    4 weeks ago

Thanks, Trout.

Cold spring water like that can support trout around here, so you might find some in there. I know they stock them from a hatchery upstream in the Niangua river, and that Ha Ha Tonka spring creek flows into the Niangua right there at the start of that arm of the lake.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3.1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Dig @3.1    4 weeks ago

I figured there was trout in that crick

 
 
 
evilgenius
Professor Guide
4  evilgenius    4 weeks ago

Nice photo essay! Looks like a great day.

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
4.1  author  Dig  replied to  evilgenius @4    4 weeks ago

Thanks, EG. It was fun.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
4.1.1  devangelical  replied to  Dig @4.1    4 weeks ago

an excellent photo tour.

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
4.1.2  author  Dig  replied to  devangelical @4.1.1    4 weeks ago

Thanks, Dev.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
PhD Expert
5  Greg Jones    4 weeks ago

Great views of a beautiful part of the state. Thanks for posting

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
6  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)    4 weeks ago

Absolutely beautiful!!! Thanks for posting!

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Senior Principal
7  Just Jim NC TttH    4 weeks ago

Awesome!!!!!

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
8  TᵢG    4 weeks ago

I was reading up on this history.   Robert McClure Snyder called this home a castle so I suspect that is why the terminology continues.    Quite a shame that this home was destroyed by sparks from an obviously faulty fireplace.

Nice story, Dig, thanks for this.

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
8.1  author  Dig  replied to  TᵢG @8    4 weeks ago
Quite a shame that this home was destroyed by sparks from an obviously faulty fireplace.

What gets me is that the history I quoted says the carriage house supposedly burned at the same time as the mansion, but they're a fair distance apart. It's not like they're right next to each other. I guess its possible that the fire could have spread all around the hilltop on its own, but still, I can't help but wonder if it might not have been an accident.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
8.1.1  TᵢG  replied to  Dig @8.1    4 weeks ago

The fire looked intense.   And the possibility of arson is reasonable given the water tower was destroyed by arson.

 
 
 
Freefaller
PhD Participates
8.1.2  Freefaller  replied to  Dig @8.1    4 weeks ago

Flaming embers which are often a hot as the fire itself have been recorded travelling as much as 40kms from the actual fire (forest fires), so acros the field doesn't seem like much of a feat.

Excellent pics and description, glad you enjoyed yourself

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
8.1.3  author  Dig  replied to  Freefaller @8.1.2    4 weeks ago

Yeah, and it looks like summer or early fall in the picture, so unless it rained recently there were probably dry leaves and brush under the trees everywhere. I doubt there was much of a fire department nearby back then, so I suppose foul play wouldn't be absolutely necessary. It was just something that had me scratching my head.

 
 
 
Gsquared
Junior Principal
9  Gsquared    4 weeks ago

Great photos and story, Dig.  Very interesting.

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
9.1  author  Dig  replied to  Gsquared @9    4 weeks ago

Thanks, G.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
10  Ender    4 weeks ago

Thanks Dig. Very cool.

I sometimes forget how different the North can look.

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
10.1  author  Dig  replied to  Ender @10    4 weeks ago

Thanks, Ender. The North, lol. 

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
10.1.1  Ender  replied to  Dig @10.1    4 weeks ago

Hey, I am on the waters edge...Haha

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
11  Buzz of the Orient    4 weeks ago

Thank you so much, Dig, for taking us along with you on that fabulous trip to and through that magnificent site.  

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
11.1  author  Dig  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @11    4 weeks ago

You're welcome, Buzz. Glad you found it enjoyable.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
12  Perrie Halpern R.A.    4 weeks ago

Great photo essay. I have never heard of the Ha Ha Tonka State Park. It has a lot of views to take in. You really did a fine job of capturing all the beauty the park has to offer. 

Well done!

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
12.1  author  Dig  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @12    6 days ago

Thanks, Perrie.

 
 
 
Raven Wing
Professor Principal
13  Raven Wing    one week ago

A little late to the trip, but, most enjoyable none the less. A wonderful photo essay and story to go along with them. 

This photo essay is one of the many reasons why NT is such a great place to come. Being able to learn about the many wonderful parts of our country  and their history.  Thank you so much for sharing this awesome bit of history with us here on NT.

Very well done!

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
13.1  author  Dig  replied to  Raven Wing @13    6 days ago

Thanks, RW. 

 
 
 
charger 383
Professor Quiet
14  charger 383    6 days ago

I missed this earlier, nice pictures and you had an enjoyable trip.  It is good this place ended up as a state park.  

 
 
 
Dig
Masters Guide
14.1  author  Dig  replied to  charger 383 @14    6 days ago

Yeah, it's a pretty place. I may need to go back for winter pics when there's snow on the ground.

 
 
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