Ha Ha Tonka State Park, MO

The Castle

The Castle courtyard, with old fountain in front

Saturday, April 4

Originally the plan was to hike the seven mile trail at Bennett Spring today, but it’s still under water. Instead, Julie and I drive 45 minutes north-west to highly rated Ha Ha Tonka State Park.

It would be easy to miss this state park as a RVer, because it’s day use only. Luckily as stated in my last post, all Missouri state parks are free admittance so it’s easy enough to visit it while camping in other nearby locations.

ha-ha-tonka-state-park2Our first stop was the Castle ruins, built by a wealthy Kansas City business man at the turn of the 20th century. The ruins stand on a tall bluff over looking an arm of the Lake of the Ozarks and you can drive almost right up to them, their only a short distance up a paved smooth trail.

I love old buildings. I love to imagine the lives the old occupants use to live when dwelling there. When taking this photograph, some trick of the lighting resulted in this rainbow sunspot effect, and I thought it looked pretty cool. While not a true castle, it sure must have been a large and impressive mansion in its prime.

A fisherman at the base of a dolomite cliff

A kayaking fisherman at the base of a dolomite cliff

Ha Ha Tonka, like Bennett Spring, is a classic example what is called karst topography. The dolomite bedrock is easily eroded by water, which makes caves, sinkholes, underground streams, large springs, and natural bridges common occurrences. Basically it’s what makes the Ozarks the Ozarks.

After seeing the castle ruins we mosey down toward the spring, which is the 12th biggest in the sate and also brown from recent flooding โ€“ oh well. A two mile trail from the spring follows it’s course down to the lake, and crosses onto a jutting bit of island that looks up the cliff to the castle. There’s also a cave on the island, but alas it’s closed to the public. Ha Ha Tonka has no less than 19 documented caves, and a couple of them can be toured in the summer, but we’re still in the off season right now.

Our path then wanders through the bowls of two large sinkholes โ€“ surprisingly steep and deep. For viewing these this is actually the better time of year because in the summer the foliage would block the interesting rock formations. More little flowers that may or may not be violets grow along the edges.

Part of a sinkhole bowl with Julie to show scale

Part of a sinkhole bowl with Julie to show scale



And between the sink holes lies perhaps the most impressive piece of geology, a large natural bridge.

I took a picture of a natural bridge at Bryce Canyon National Park out west when I was work-camping last summer, but this is on a whole different scale. The bridge is very thick and the hiking trail actually takes you right over it. The hole underneath would be wide enough for a three lane road to pass through. It’s so immense that it’s hardย to photograph, if you stand far enough back to get the whole thing in one frame there are too many trees in the way. The lighting is poor in this photo, but I did my best.

The large natural bridge, sun isn't in the best spot for this

The large natural bridge

All in all, Julie and I hiked six miles and got to see a lot of interesting stuff. Despite not having anywhere to camp, I highly recommend this state park for those visiting the area.

* * *

Thank you for doing your usual Amazon shopping using my affiliate link.

The old watertower for the castle

The old watertower for the castle

Other Articles You Might Enjoy

Spilling The Beans

April 13, 2016 |

After a fantastic hike among the rocks at the back of Sawtooth campground on Wednesday the 6th (the pictures in the previous post), it rains for the rest of my stay. Not all day, never very hard, but the sky remains overcast and and the air is chill. Because of the lack of sunlight I…

Read More

Mammoth Lakes Campgrounds

June 13, 2016 |

Wednesday, June 8 (cont’d) After the fun day at Rock Creek, I come home to the most unique sunset I’ve ever experienced. As last light hits the White mountains, a band of clouds overhead turn soft white, like a beacon. The band extends from north to south. The white fades with the sun and I…

Read More

Halloween and November

December 6, 2019 |

October 25, Friday After a fun couple weeks in the Salt Lake City area with Marshall and Kelly (there was even a trip to a trampoline park!), we part ways and I continue on my own south and east for another good Halloween weekend in Fruita, CO with a different group of camping friends. Shenanigans…

Read More


At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Rvgal on October 16, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    When I was young, prior to this being a state Park, we use to party here and canoe down the spring. Beautiful area

    • Becky on October 16, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      It is very pretty RVgal. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Ed @ Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on April 9, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    This is an area of the country in which I have spent very little (as in none) time. Only “just passing through’ east to west. It looks very interesting. That kayaking “river” below the dolomite cliffs looks inviting. What river is that?

    • Becky on April 9, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      It is interesting Ed!

      That isn’t a river per-say, it’s where Ha Ha Tonka Spring empties into Lake of the Ozarks. LotO is a narrow winding lake with many arms and there are a lot of parks along its shores.

  3. Jim at Growing Faith on April 9, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I’m happy to see sunshine and blue skies in this posting! It looks like an interesting place to visit. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Jim at Growing Faith recently posted..Pure FaithMy Profile

    • Becky on April 9, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      Yes! The sun made a welcome appearance this day, it’s been kind of hit and miss since then but that’s Spring for you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Jodee Gravel on April 9, 2015 at 9:12 am

    That sink hole ridgeline is beautiful and unique. I also love old ruins and envision their inhabitants going about their lives so long ago. I’m sure in its day the castle was quite splendid.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Some Things I LearnedMy Profile

    • Becky on April 9, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      We’re so fortunate Jodee to get to experience things like this park on a regular basis. When I’m traveling I sometimes feel like the luckiest girl in the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Maura on April 8, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    That little bit of light on your photo adds to a ‘haunting’ feeling of an age gone by. I always try to imagine the inhabitants of a gone-bye era..pretty neat stuff. Thanks for sharing

    • Becky on April 9, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      You’re welcome Maura, I’m glad you enjoyed that photo and the post in general. I wonder if I could recreate that effect intentionally.

  6. PJ on April 8, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    The flowers are called birdsfoot violet because of the shape of the leaves instead of the heart-shaped leaves of woods violets.

    • Becky on April 9, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      Interesting PJ, thanks for enlightening us!

Enjoy what you just read? Have new blog posts delivered right to your inbox!

Your email is safe with me and you can unsubscribe anytime. :)

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.