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.
Our 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.
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 – 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 – 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.
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 hard 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.
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.
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