Want to visit a cave? How about 6,400?

By | Category: Travel destinations
the Meramec caverns

the Meramec caverns

The US state of Missouri has more than 6,400 recorded caves. Which probably means there are quite a few more just waiting for enterprising visitors or speleologists (cave explorers) to find them.

Because of obvious safety reasons, the majority are not open to visitors. Some have achieved fame by appearing in books such as those two miles south of the town of Hannibal known as the Mark Twain Cave Complex. The famed author after who they are named described them in no less than five of his books.

Marvel Cave, is not only the deepest show cave in the state, it is also has the largest tour-cave entrance room – 204 feet high, 225 feet wide and 411 feet long – in the U.S. Now, a Registered Natural Landmark, it can be found underneath the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson which, incidentally, is also home to an astonishingly wide range of entertainment attractions such as Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, the Moon River Theatre built by Andy Williams, the Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre and a Titanic Museum.

The Meramac cave complex has a more modern link since tradition says that the outlaw Jesse James and his gang used them as a hideout.  that they are just off Route 66 – itself a tourist attraction – probably explains why so many people stop here.

In Ridgedale which is only a short drive from Branson, you’ll find Lost Canyon Cave, part of the Top of the Rock complex. This four-story cave has waterfalls and natural rock formations but its location is what draws the visitors those that appreciate scenery both above and below the ground.

You don’t necessarily have to done boots and walk. One cave system, Fantastic Caverns in Springfield is America’s only ride-through cave where you take the mile-long, 55-minute tour in a jeep-drawn tram which follows the path of an ancient underground river.

The state has gone out of its way to make sure that visiting these caves is as far removed from crawling though dimly lit  cracks and using your hands and knees as it is possible to be. The Onondaga Cave in Onondaga Cave State Park, has electrically lighted, paved walkways and nearby Cathedral Cave, (also in Onondaga Cave State Park, offers slightly strenuous, lantern-light tours. Allow for a walk covering about 450 yards and then the tour itself will last about an hour and a half.

Those with mobility problems might want to consider going to Smallin Civil War Cave. The regular guided tour lasts one hour, traveling one-half mile on trails that are wheelchair and push chair/Those seeking more strenuous activity can visit part of the complex where you will only have lights from your helmet to guide you along water trails at least two feet deep and traverse rugged terrain.

The Bridal Cave has seen more than 2,200 couples from around the world exchange their wedding vows in this stalactite-adorned, natural chapel. Regular cave tours are conducted over lighted, concrete pathways. The cave, four miles north of Camdenton, is reachable by road and by water at the Lake of the Ozarks.

To write about eight out of 6,400 caves and complexes doesn’t even cover the tip of what Missouri has to offer. But then who would manage to visit all of those open let alone all that are there?

For more information on Missouri caves, click here.

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