Birding Site Guide to

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HA HA TONKA STATE PARK
3,709 acres  Camden Co.  DeLorme 45, F-6
GPS:  37.969643382155,-92.7596282958984
DNR owned; contact 573-346-2986 for additional information
Tom Nagel, Della Rhoades, Edge Wade--revised 2010
 
Directions:  From the traffic light in Camdenton (old Hwy. 5 and US 54), go 2.5 miles southwest on US 54 to Rt. D.  Go east (left) on Rt. D approximately 1.5 miles to the park visitor center.
 
When to Visit/Species to Expect:  Anytime but a hot summer afternoon will bring a good variety of species to birders who sample the trails into the karst topography.  Savannas, glades, woodland, a spring, lake frontage, lowlands and heights provide suitable habitat for nesting species and refuge for migrants. Warblers, flycatchers, tanagers, orioles, and nightjars nest here.  Black Vultures have been seen.
 
Of Special Note:  The 5 eggs in the last known Common Raven nest in Missouri were collected in April, 1901, at Ha Ha Tonka.  About six pairs were reported in the vicinity in 1907.  This was the last report of ravens in Missouri.
 
Features of interest to birders:  The park has 15 trails of varying lengths and difficulty of terrain.  Most highlight features of the karst topography.  Below are the trails best suited for enjoyable birding.
 
Spring Trail (1.5 miles). Continue past the park entrance on Rt. D for one mile, and take the first road to your right.  Go 0.25 mile to the gated picnic area entrance on your right, open during daylight hours.  The road dead ends in a parking area.  The trail starts at the far end of the parking area and parallels Ha Ha Tonka Spring Branch, ending at the spring.  Bald Eagles are sometimes seen in this cove in winter; Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Green Heron, Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Protonotary and Kentucky Warblers, and Louisiana Waterthrush are seen or heard along the spring branch in summer.  The best birding is early in the day as this is an extremely popular area with park visitors.
 
Turkey Pen Hollow Trail (7 mile loop, some rugged terrain).  Continue past the park entrance 0.5 mile to the parking area on your left.  A self-guided trail loops through a savanna.  Eastern Bluebirds are frequently seen in this area.  Bewick’s Wrens are occasionally spotted, and Prairie Warblers sing from the few large cedars remaining on the glades.
 
Colosseum Trail (0.5 mile). Turn into the park entrance.  Just past the large parking lot on your right, turn left.  After about 0.25 miles this road ends with a small parking lot---the trailhead for the Colosseum Trail.  The trail goes beneath the natural bridge and into the Colosseum, both of which are part of the Ha Ha Tonka Karst Natural Area.  This is a spectacular place for viewing spring wildflowers which often bloom here two to three weeks ahead of nearby sites.  Kentucky Warblers and Wood Thrush are here in summer.  Chuck-will’s-widows call after dark, but you’ll need to park at Turkey Pen Hollow parking lot and walk across Rt. D to this site as the park entrance road is gated at sunset.
 
Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins (0.25 one way).  Turn right off Rt. D into the park at the entrance.  Go 0.25 mile to a large parking lot on the right and follow the paved trail to the castle ruins.  A scenic overlook alnong this trail and also one at the castle give outstanding views of the collapsed cave valley through which the spring branch flows.  Turkey Vulture sometimes roost on the castle ruins.  As of 2010, Black Vultures may be among them.  Watch for them from the overlook.  Prairie Warblers call from the cedars on the glade along the trail.
 
Oak Woodland Interpretive Trail (450 feet, asphalt) and Acorn Trail (0.75 mile, moderate terrain).  Park at the lot east of Hwy. D, between the park's castle and spring entrances for these.  Both offer easy access to open oak woodland.  In summer you may find Summer Tanagers, a variety of sparrows and Prairie Warblers.
 
Toilets:  Flush toilets at the visitor center; a vault toilet at the picnic shelter on Rt. D west of the post office; vault toilets at the east and west ends of the parking lot at the head of the Spring Branch Trail.
 
Camping:  Backpack camping is allowed along the Turkey Pen Hollow trail.
 
Hazards/Limitations:
There are sheer bluffs from 30 to 200 feet high around the sinkholes and in the vicinity of the castle.
 
Prescribed burns are conducted in much of this park.  If you plan to hike off trail into more remote areas on weekdays from late September to late March, contact the park office to be certain there is no scheduled burn in the area that day.
 
Collecting of any kind is prohibited in all state parks.
 
Due to heavy park visitation and trail use, visitors are strongly encouraged to stay on trails in the vicinity of the castle ruins, stable ruins, water tower ruins, spring branch, natural bridge, and the Colosseum, Whispering Dell, and River Cave sinkholes.
 
Nearby Birding Sites:  Lead Mine CA, Bennett Spring SP, Fiery Fork CA, Branch Towersite, Larry R. Gale Access.