Castle ruins bring visitors year round

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CAMDENTON - The Ha Ha Tonka ruins, which once stood as a castle, were home to the Snyder family.

Today, the remains from the household bring in around half a million people a year.

Robert Snyder bought over 5,000 acres of land in the early 1900s to build a private vacation home for his family. He designed the house to be three stories and to reflect the European castle style.

Unfortunately, Snyder passed away in 1905 in Missouri's first automobile accident before seeing the finishing product. Snyder's sons took it upon themselves to complete the castle, but they did not execute it as their father originally planned.

After some time, the family decided to lease the property and turn it into a hotel until a tragic fire in 1942.

Park Superintendent Nancy Masterson said, "Tragically 1942, when they [hotel guests] were starting a fire in one of the fireplaces, it was a chilly October day, October 21, 1942, sparks from that fire in the fireplace floated up to the roof and caught the roof on fire."

Masterson said there was nothing people could do, but watch it burn.

"Sparks from that roof also floated down to the old carriage house building and burned that building on the same day," Masterson said. 

Later in 1976, the water tower on the property was burned by vandals. 

According to Masterson, the state bought the property from a holding company to build a state park. 

"We have had to do work to stabilize the walls, so that no further deterioration happened. We had a large project in the late 1980s that actually disassembled portions of the castle wall and then rebuilt it from the ground up using a technique with tensioning rods to hold the stones together better," Masterson said.

Besides the castle ruins, another attraction of the Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a natural bridge.

The bridge is more than 100 feet tall, stretches 60 feet over what used to be a giant cave and is 70 feet wide.

"Hundreds of thousands of years ago some geologic event happened, which caused the cave roof, the caves on either side of what's left now, the natural bridge, to collapse. Fractures in the rock, rain eroding, freeze and thaw, a lot of things contribute to why those cave roofs collapsed," Masterson said. 

Hikers are able to walk over or under the natural bridge.

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