Editor's Note: This is a final edition of a two-part series featuring great places to experience old-fashioned fun activities at the Lake.
1.Great place to steal a kiss
The overlook of the spring in Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a great place to "sneak a kiss."
According to Missouri State Park's website, the first .40 mile of the Spring Trail is paved and takes you along the shoreline of Lake of the Ozarks and Ha Ha Tonka Spring. This is a great trail to hike if looking for spring wildflowers. One of the first stopping points is at the site of the old gristmill that was burned in 1931 to make room for the Lake of the Ozarks. A spillway, raceway and grinding stone remain at the mill site. A small trail shelter with tables and an interpretive display are also located near the old mill. Spring Trail continues toward Ha Ha Tonka Spring along the shore of the old mill pond. The mill pond is a great place to watch for wildlife including turtles, frog and toads, and green herons. At the end of the mill pond is another raceway that acts as a dam to the spring water during normal water levels. During high water, water runs over the raceway and flushes out the mill pond into the lake.
Shortly after the second raceway, the trail surface changes from pavement to wood boardwalk. At this point a small overlook offers a nice view of the channel and is a great place to look for muskrats, otters, ducks and other aquatic wildlife.
As you near the spring, you squeeze between large rocks that were once part of the ceiling over this collapsed chasm. After exiting the rocks, there is an old pump south of the trail. This pump was used in the 1940s to pump spring water to a small log cabin at the top of the hill. The spring emerges from the water-filled cave at the base of the small bluff. The average flow is 58 million gallons a day. It is a half-mile from the trailhead to the mouth of the spring. Many visitors turn back at this point or you can ascend up the 316 wood steps, nearly 200 vertical feet, to be on your way to Ha Ha Tonka Castle or additional scenic trails in the park.
2.Great place to see a naturally-made site
The Colosseum Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a natural surface trail that winds under a natural bridge and through a large sinkhole, the Colosseum, and is part of the Ha Ha Tonka Karst Natural Area.
As stated on Missouri State Park's website, the natural bridge is a massive stone arch left behind when the cave system around it collapsed. It spans 60 feet, is 100 feet high, and is 70 feet wide. The natural bridge was used as a route to the castle until it was closed to vehicular traffic in 1980 because it was too narrow.
It is an impressive geological feature and one of the highlights of the park, according to the website. After a heavy rain, water often cascades off the back side making its way to the lowest point in the sinkhole beyond.
The Colosseum Sinkhole is 150 feet deep. As you start your hike out of the sinkhole at the south end, you will step between large boulders - evidence of the rocky ceiling that one covered this cave room. It is a long, steep climb out of the sinkhole to near the top of the ridge, but the views of the old post office, spring and castle ruins at the top are a great reason to stop to catch your breath. The figure-eight loop then takes you across the top of the natural bridge and back to the trailhead.
The Colosseum Trail is .70 miles in length and estimated hiking time is 40 minutes.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park is located on State Road D in Camdenton. April through October, the park is open 7 a.m. to sunset daily. The Park Office can be reached at 573-346-2986.
3.Great place to go hiking
Outdoors activities in general are abundant in Lake of the Ozarks, however, a favorite among avid outdoorsmen and women is hiking. If you are visiting or living at the Lake, you are in a haven of hiking trails among its two state parks suitable for all skill level.
Within Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton, there are 14 trails total, with three that are handicap accessible including the Castle Trail, Dell Rim Trail and Oak Woodland Interpretive Trail. According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' MoStateParks.com website, hikers can traverse more than 15 miles of total trails that lead visitors to Ha Ha Tonka Castle, sinkholes, natural bridges, caves, naturally-made formations, natural springs, attractions and to the Lake's front. For more information, visit www.mostateparks.com/park/ha-ha-tonka-state-park, or stop by the park's visitor's center to get a map, which is located at 1491 Route D in Camdenton, or call the office at 573-346-2986.
In Missouri's largest state park, Lake of the Ozarks State Park, hikers can enjoy several dozen miles of nature's finest elements among its 10-plus trails. It has at least one handicap-accessible trail at Fawn's Ridge Trail, with others offering challenging hiking elements and others offering biking and horseback riding access. In addition to the main park's entrance off Highway 42 at Highway 134, guests can also enjoy a variety of other trails sprinkled throughout the park at its Public Beach No. 2 and Pa He Tsi access points, and off Route A in Linn Creek near Ozark Caverns, all which reside in Lake of the Ozarks State Park. For additional information about this park's trails, visit www.mostateparks.com/trails/lake-ozarks-state-park or call their office at 573-348-0170, or stop by the office at 403 Highway 134 in Kaiser.
4.Great place to see heightened views of the Lake by land
For those who want to see the Lake from a different prospective, test their taste of heights and experience a piece of history, The Lake Today staff suggests venturing up the fire lookout tower at the Thunder Mountain conservation area in Camdenton.
According to Lake Historian Mike Gillespie's website (www.lakehistory.info), the 100-foot tall Camdenton fire tower was built in 1942. It was used for some time to help detect wildfires from around the region for immediate response. It remains standing and open to the public to climb up and get a feel for what conservation agents had to experience.
There are a few fire towers still standing around the Lake, however, others had been moved to other areas or have since been torn down. Yet, for a picturesque view of Camdenton and the Lake's Niangua arm, it is truly a daring climb that is worth the amazing sight to see. Access to the very top has been blocked off, however, visitors can climb about 2/3 up on a sturdy platform.
For additional information about the standing fire lookout tower, call the Missouri Department of Conservation office where it resides at 573-346-2210 or turn left off old Route 5 north of Camdenton (same road to get to Bridal Cave), then follow .6 miles on Thunder Mountain Road to see the tower and MDC office on your right. For additional information about fire tower history at the Lake, visit www.lakehistory.info.