The ruins of Ha Ha Tonka, a stone palace built in the early 20th century and inspired by European castles from the 16th century, are the most famous feature of the state park.
Located on the Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, about five miles south of Camdenton, Missouri, Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a large public recreational area with more than 3,700 acres.
The park also has cliffs that look out over the lake, caverns, and sinkholes. It serves as a notable example of karst topography, a kind of geological structure created by the evaporation of one or more layers of soluble bedrock. The Ha Ha Tonka Karst Natural Area was established as a 70-acre section of the park in 1981.
When Ha Ha Tonka Castle Was Built
Robert McClure Snyder Sr., a wealthy businessman from Kansas City, had a vision of building a castle in the manner of Europe right there in his home state of Missouri. In order to do this, Snyder bought 5,000 acres of property in 1903, including his own lake, and construction of the Ha Ha Tonka castle started in 1905.
The term "ha ha tonka", which refers to the natural springs on the site, is thought to mean "big laugh" or "smiling waters".
To obtain the right design, the businessman even brought in stonemasons from Europe, but sadly Snyder would not survive to see his dream home finished. When the house's construction had started in earnest, Snyder was killed in one of Missouri's first automobile accidents in 1906.
His sons Robert Jr., LeRoy, and Kenneth Snyder finished the castle in the early 1920s before the Stock Market collapsed after Snyder passed away.
Snyder's sons continued on with construction after his passing, finishing the structure by 1920. One of Snyder's sons moved into the massive castle once construction was finished until the family's finances ran out as a result of legal disputes over the castle's land.
After Snyder the younger's depression and poverty forced him out of the estate, the structure was used as a hotel and lodge until 1942 when it was completely destroyed by fire.
In 1978, the state bought the castle and its surroundings, converted it into a state park, and made it accessible to the general public. A new roof was put on the water tower in 2004 after repairs.
The castle walls were stabilized in the 1980s, but a 2016 inspection found that several of the remains, notably its arches, were showing signs of mortar and stone failure with the potential to start collapsing. Public access has been restricted in several places.
The remains are visible from an observation point across the street from the park office.
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