Belly Laughs in Lake of the Ozarks’ State Park?
“Do they call it Ha Ha Tonka because you will laugh out loud?” That’s what the girls wanted to know when we drove up to Ha Ha Tonka State Park for a guided tour with several other families from the area. Well, legend has it that Ha Ha Tonka got its name from the Native American Indians from the area. It is loosely translated as “land of the laughing water” according to theMissouri State Park website.
You can see the beautiful laughing water during your hike along the trails in Ha Ha Tonka. In total, there are 18 miles of trails and the park is FREE. There is so much to see to keep the kids’ interest from cool caves to wildlife (we saw turtles, fish and even tree snakes!), to a castle! We started our tour at the Visitor’s Center where Bill Bryan, who is a Director at Missouri State Parks, gave us an overview of the area and explained what we could expect during our tour. Bill was a wealth of information and clearly passionate about the state park system in Missouri. When people love their jobs like he clearly does, their enthusiasm is infectious!
We were excited to start hiking! The tour we took with our guide, the park naturalist Larry Webb, went under a natural bridge that is 70 feet wide and spans 60 feet! You’ll notice in the show that my kids were smart and wore their sneakers while I wore sandals. Note to self for next time…close toed shoes! While some of the trails are on paved pathways, there are other parts where you get to climb over rocks and wooded trails. Be prepared!
We made our way to Ha Ha Tonka Spring where over 50 million gallons of water discharges daily! It was amazing how incredibly clear the water was. You could easily see to the bottom and while it looks clean enough to drink, it’s not recommended. Speaking of drinking, be sure to stay hydrated on your hike, but remember to keep track of your containers…we don’t want to litter these beautiful parks.
In our opinion the piece de resistance was the castle! Who knew there was a castle in Lake of the Ozarks? Well, back in the early 1900s a businessman named Robert M. Snyder envisioned the construction of a European style castle set in this picturesque area. We learned on the tour that sadly, Mr. Snyder passed away before he could see the castle completed. His sons finished the building in his honor, but then the castle was eventually leased as a hotel. It was during that time that a fire gutted the building. To this day, only the castle ruins remain. There are gorgeous views of the entire area from the castle, so don’t forget your camera for some family vacation photos!
Legend has it Daniel Boone and his son Nathan passed through the area
There are caves that were once used as criminals’ hide-outs in the 1830s
Several paths are paved so easy for strollers