Lake of the Ozarks was beautiful and we saw several deer while here. The weather was hotter, than our liking, but we got up early on explore days and did the lazy thing on other days.
We traveled to the Bagnel Dam and also the Willmore lodge. At the lodge there was a small museum that gave a good explanation of how various towns were moved prior to the making of the dam and thereby creating the Lake of the Ozarks in 1931. The lake's surface area covers 61,000 square miles and the area population fluctuates from 2,000 - 200,000 on weekend days as boaters and other water lovers flock to the area.
At more than 6,300 known caves in the state, Missouri is believed to have more caves than any other state in the United States. The Lake of the Ozarks area has several and we choose the Bridal Cave as the one to tour while here. The entrance to Bridal Cave lies beneath Thunder Mountain. We were told by the locals that on the mountain, when the Thunder hits the vibration is so impressive that all the car alarms sound. The Bridal Cave was discovered by the Osage Indians centuries ago. Local tales tell of the Osage Indians having wed in this cave in the early 1800's. Today, over 2,500 couples from around the world have exchanged their vows within the cave. As a side note, their rates were reasonable-$600 includes admission into the cave for all attendees, flowers, the minister, photographer with pictures, toasting glasses with sparkling cider and recorded music. Anyway, back to our visit. It is amazing to us, as we visit various caves, how unique, and beautiful each is in its own way. Bridal Cave with its giant columns, gentle soda straws, massive draperies, and its unique Mystery Lake was a day's adventure we surly will not forget.
Ha Ha Tonka was only a short drive from where we were camping in Lake of the Ozarks. We did a full day of hiking in this park and saw a variety of landscapes.
We started on the Dell Rim trail. This trail leads to the water tower, built in 1905 to supply water to the castle (more on the castle in a bit). The trail runs along the Whispering Dell sinkhole. Many sinkholes are found in the area where caves over the years have collapsed. The Whispering dell is said to have been a hideout at one time for counterfeiters to hide their machines.
From the Water Tower, we picked up the Castle trail. The Castle trail took us by the carriage house ruins and then on to the Castle ruins. Robert Snyder, a wealthy Kansas Business man, purchased 5,000 acres in the early 1900's, that included a spring fed lake, as the site of his mansion he intended to build. And a mansion it would be. He imported masons from Scotland to do the work. A short time later, however, in 1906 Snyder fell dead being the first automobile fatality in the state. His sons came in and finished the mansion but it was later gutted by fire in 1942. From what we observed from the ruins, it was 3 stories high. Snyder and his sons fought, unsuccessfully, against the dam for many years.
From here we went to the spring trail. Over 300 steps down, yet it was peaceful and a nice drop in temperature on a very hot day. We hiked along the river and lake and crossed over to Rock Island. While we did not hike a lot of this island (knowing we had much ahead), we landed and enjoyed the short time we were here.
From here we hiked some dry arid land. Eventually we went past the old Post Office and local store and then made it to the wonderful Devil's Kitchen. It started to rain and we were happy to have Devil's Kitchen for dry shelter while we ate some sandwiches. Eventually the rain lessened and we decided to start our hike out. While we were a little wet when we arrived at our truck, it truly was a great day.