State Parks in the Ozarks of Missouri You Should Never Miss
If you’re a Missourian and a camping enthusiast, you don’t need to look for beautiful campsites outside of Missouri because there are so many of them just within the state. Take for example the area around the Ozarks, also called the Ozark Mountains or Plateau. This is actually spread in three states including Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas. However, it’s still quite unknown that this region in Missouri consists of some amazing state parks ideal for camping, trekking, picnicking, biking and many such exciting activities. Here are a few of them.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Lake of the Ozarks is quite well-known as a picnic area and receives many visitors. However, these visitors don’t realize that there is a 17,441 acre park lying just to the south of the Osage Beach! In fact, Lake of the Ozarks State Park is the largest park in Missouri and can be a nice addition to the area’s attractions. It consists of 85 miles of shoreline, a couple of public beaches and a boat launching area too. The park also offers hiking trails, four organized youth camps and horseback riding stable.
The park is dissected by the Grand Glaize Arm of the lake with more than 85 miles of shoreline. This water corridor contains several facilities at the Grand Glaize Beach, on Highway 54 in Osage Beach 1.5 miles south of Grand Glaize Beach and at Public Beach #1 where the Hwy 134 ends.
Both areas have free sand beaches for swimming. A picnic shelter can be reserved by large groups for $40 and when not reserved, it’s offered on a first-come, first-served basis. You can launch your own boat (free at McCubbin Point and for a nominal fee at Public Beach #1 and Grand Glaize Beach). You can also fish free at a dock with crappie beds, provided you have a valid fishing license.
There are some unusual natural features along the shoreline of the park with which you’ll be amazed. For example, Lake of the Ozarks Aquatic Trail is designed for boaters and has stops marked by buoys. You can get a free booklet at the park office which explains the significance of these 14 marked stops.
An ideal time to visit the park is from May to mid-October because during this season, naturalists present programs in an open air amphitheater featuring movies or slide shows about natural wonders occurring in the Missouri’s state parks. Plus, you’re offered guided hikes and various other programs.
Another wonderful highlight is 56° Ozark Caverns, a nice place to escape the summer’s heat. You can access it by following Highway A (between Camdenton and Osage Beach) for 8 miles and following the signs. You’re given handheld lanterns after paying a small fee. Once you enter the caverns, a wonderful world of underground splendor opens up before you in the light of the lanterns. The Angel’s Shower is a never-ending spectacular flow of water seemingly falling from the solid rocky ceiling, down into a couple of massive bowl-shaped stone basins on the cavern floor. Plus, you can see some uncommon animals, adapted to the dark world.
Ozark Caverns Visitor Center which opened in 1987 is always happy to help visitors understand the unusual environment. Plus, there is a one-mile Coakley Hollow Self-Guided Trail near the Center that takes you through a scenic and naturally varied part of the park. This is one of park’s ten major trails. There is a Trail Center on Highway 134 where you can get interesting information of the features along these trails. Just behind it, there is the Woodland Trail that takes you to Patterson Hollow Wild Area, spread into 1,200 acres, but totally undeveloped. Additional information can be obtained at the park office.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park
This park is spread over 3,600 acres on the Niangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, located 5 miles southwest of Camdenton on State Road D.
The park contains 12 hiking trails of different lengths (total 16 miles) that take you to places like Turkey Pen Hollow and Devil’s Kitchen. Plus there are 8 caves. In addition, there are so many picnic areas. Two of these can be rented for events and there is a playground too. The visitor’s center at the park’s entrance offers a Trail and Natural Area Guide. Visitors for the day can arrive easily by car or boat. Overnight camping is not available.
By the beginning of the 18th century, a leading Kansas City businessman, Robert McClure Snyder visited the park and was fell so much in love with it that he started purchasing the surrounding land and acquired more than 5,000 acres and built a beautiful European-style castle here. Unfortunately the Snyder family faced many adversities, Robert Snyder was killed in a car accident, the family was forced to sell their natural gas supply business and had to fight a long legal battle against Union Electric and the mansion was leased by a Mrs. Ellis who ran it as a hotel. But this too came to an end by a fire sparked from Ha Ha Tonka’s many fireplaces and the huge castle was shattered, leaving just the devastated outer walls that still stand on the cliff’s edge. In 1978, the State of Missouri bought the estate and opened it to the public as a State Park.
However, the ruins are impressive, so are their natural surroundings. According to geologists, the area is an ideal example of “karst” topography marked by caves, natural bridges, sinks and underground streams. Huge caves are now collapsed creating large theater-like pits called the coliseum. According to legends, Native American tribal meetings were held in the coliseum. The park also contains one of Missouri’s largest springs which feeds around 48 gallons of water a day into the Lake’s Niangua Arm.
Roaring River State Park
Located in the southwest of Ozark Hills, the Roaring River State Park is one among the three state parks stocked with rainbow trout. It’s located in a deep, narrow valley and is surrounded by a rugged, striking landscape. It’s open year round to visitors that mostly contain eager anglers who enjoy catching their favorite fish.
Plus, the park has seven hiking trails, picnic tables where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch, a swimming pool and a nature center to get more information about the park.