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Discover 14 Incredible Caves in Missouri

Missouri is home to various geological marvels and ecosystems that it would take you forever to explore them all. From stunning underground caves and caverns to rolling prairies, you’ll find plenty of unimaginable beautiful places in this Midwestern U.S. state.

Whether you are an adept spelunker or just coming here to relax, Missouri has something to offer everyone. Below are some of the top-rated caves you should explore in Missouri.

Let’s take a trek into nature!

 

Bridal Cave

Bridal Cave has been a favorite family destination for more than 70 years. It’s one of the most beautiful caves with incredible geological features, such as stalagmites, stalactites, and giant columns. Besides, it also has a Mystery Lake. Although the cave is a mile long, only a quarter of it is accessible to the public due to the underground lakes.

Visitors can pay to host weddings at Bridal Cave. So far, more than 4,250 weddings have been held at the cave.

  • Address: 526 Bridal Cave Rd, Camdenton, MO 65020, United States
  • Website: Bridal Cave
  • Phone number: +1 573-346-2676
  • Entrance fee: $22 for adults 13+, $11 for children between ages 5-12, and free for children below 4.
  • Google Maps link: Bridal Cave

Bluff Dwellers Cave

Bluff Dweller’s Cave is a show cave named after Paleo-Indian Bluff Dwellers. The cave has two entrances beneath a limestone outcropping bluff and over 4,000 ft long passages. It has some of the most impressive structures, including the Rimstone Dam, the 10-ton balanced rock, and a curtain of hollow stalactites.

Admission to Bluff Dweller’s Cave includes access to the Browning Museum, where visitors can view a wide variety of fossils, minerals, rocks, artifacts, antiques, arrowheads, and more.

  • Address: 163 Cave Rd, Noel, MO 64854, United States
  • Website: Bluff Dwellers Cave
  • Phone number: +1 417-475-3666
  • Entrance fee: $21 for adults 12+, $12 for children between ages 4-11, $19 for military, and free for children below 3.
  • Google Maps link: Bluff Dwellers Cave

Meramec Caverns

Meramec Caverns is the most visited cave in Missouri. More than 150,000 visitors tour this world’s largest cave formations annually. Believed to have provided shelter for the Native Americans during the Civil War, this cavern system is located near St Louis in the Ozark Mountains and has very unique formations.

Trained rangers offer guided tours along well-lighted walkways and take about one hour and twenty minutes to complete. While on tour, you will see the largest and rarest cave formations in the world, such as the ancient Wine Table formed completely underwater.

  • Address: 1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO 63080, United States
  • Website: Meramec Caverns
  • Phone number: +1 573-468-2633
  • Entrance fee: $26 per adult, $14 for children between ages 5-11, and free for children under 4.
  • Google Maps link: Meramec Caverns

Fantastic Caverns

Discovered in 1862 by an Ozarks farmer, Fantastic Caverns is North America’s only ride-through cave! The tour is held in a jeep-drawn tram and lasts about 55 minutes. These jeep tours help protect the cavern’s fragile environment. While on your ride, you will experience the stillness, magnitude, and splendor of the Fantastic Caverns as you catch sight of stalagmites, stalactites, and massive columns.

Devils Well

Devil’s Well contains one of the largest underground lakes in Missouri. This unusual “karst window” is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, formed when the water eroded underground dolomite strata. The result was a large sinkhole with an opening below where you can see the lake.

The lake is estimated to be 80 ft deep, while the water level is approximately 100 feet below the platform. A spiral stairway and a switch-activated light have been set up to give visitors a clear view. Please bring additional light sources.

Mark Twain Cave

Originally known as McDowell’s Cave, Mark Twain Cave is the oldest operating show cave in Missouri, with the first guided tour dating back to 1886. The cave was renamed in honor of Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The labyrinth is inspired by Mark Twain’s famous novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

Twain’s book offered a description of the activities in the cave, including those of the pioneering Hannibal physician Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell, who placed the body of her deceased child Amanda in a preserving coffin inside the cave workspace.

The cave has comfortable temperatures of about 52 degrees, making it a perfect destination for exploration any day.

Ozark Caverns

Located on the south side of Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Ozark Caverns is one of the three “protected” caves accessible to tourists. The other two are Jacob’s Cave and Bridal’s Cave. The cavern is famous for one of its fascinating “showerhead and bathtub” feature known as Angel Showers, which appears as a never-ending shower of water coming out of the cavern ceiling.

Ozark Caverns is also home to many wildlife species, including salamanders and four species of bats. However, it’s believed that the bat population may have been severely reduced or even eliminated due to white-nose syndrome.

Riverbluff Cave

Riverbluff Cave is the best place for you, especially if you are interested in natural history. The cave is about 830,000 years old and features a plethora of fossils and artifacts dating back to the Pleistocene age, a period that spanned from 1.8 million to 11,000 years ago. These items include fossilized turtle shells, snake skeletons, and numerous short-faced bear claw marks that once inhabited the cave.

In addition to animal remains, Riverbluff Cave is filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and columns, which adorn the main room. Ceilings full of soda straws can be seen throughout the cave, and Flowstone and draperies decorate the walls.

Unfortunately, the cave is not open to the public, so it’s only wired for virtual tours. It’s done so to protect the fossils and speleothems. Oil from human skin can hinder the growth of a speleothem, and untrained feet can crush bones.

Marvel Cave

Marvel Cave is part of the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson, Missouri. Originally the cave was called Marble Cave after explorers saw what they thought was marble on the cave’s ceiling in 1882. The cave was renamed Marvel Cave in 1927. Except for bat guano, no marble was ever mined from the cave.

Cave tours last about one hour. To begin, you will pass through one of the largest cave entrance rooms in the United States, known as the Cathedral Room. Visitors with heart or lung conditions, weak ankles, or knees are not recommended to take the tour since it’s strenuous.

Onondaga Cave State Park

Onondaga Cave State Park is a national natural landmark on the Meramec River. The features active flowstones, dripping stalactites, and towering stalagmites. There is also a river flowing through the cave. Beside cave exploration, it is a popular destination for hiking, fishing, camping, swimming, and picnicking.

Talking Rocks Cave

Formerly known as Fairy Cave, Talking Rocks Cave is a cavern system located in stone County, Missouri. View the beauty of the cave’s pristine formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, and cave bacon, from the concrete walkways. The cave is open year-round and offers guided tours regularly throughout the day.

Talking Rocks Cave is considered a living cave because of the presence of water; most formations are still growing. The cave may get wetter than usual during extremely rainy weather, though it rarely floods or interrupts tours.

Smallin Civil War Cave

Smallin Civil War Cave is an amazing place to learn about geology, folklore, and human history. The Native Americans, notorious Baldknobbers, Civil War soldiers, and pioneers are among the humans who contributed to the cave’s history.

Experienced spelunkers can take a two-hour wild cave tour off the beaten path, which can only be lit by a headlamp on your helmet. This underground adventure involves traversing rugged terrain and walking through about two feet of 54-degree water.

  • Address: 3575 N Smallin Rd, Ozark, MO 65721, United States
  • Website: Smallin Civil War Cave
  • Phone number: +1 417-551-4545
  • Entrance fee: Rates vary depending on the tour. Admission costs for a one-hour tour is as follows:
    • $25.95 for adults
    • $14.95 for children between ages 4-12
    • Free for children below 3
  • Google Maps link: Smallin Civil War Cave

Stark Caverns

Also known as Fantasy World Caverns, Stark Caverns offers some of the most amazing tours that are a little more expensive but well worth it. One-hour guided tours are offered throughout the day. During this tour, you’ll have the opportunity to see ancient bear beds, Native American artifacts, and several spectacular geological formations. Discover a new world underground while learning about fluorescent minerals, stalactites, and stalagmites.

The famous Escape Room, aka “Bootleggers Bequest,” is one of the best places you should consider visiting at one point in your life. It’s perfect for getaway weekends, family nights, and parties, and it offers a flat pricing rate of $220 for 4-10 participants.

  • Address: 125 Cave Dr, Eldon, MO 65026, United States
  • Website: Stark Caverns
  • Phone number: +1 573-867-2283
  • Entrance fee: $22 for adults, $11 for children between ages 5-12, $20 for seniors, $20 for military and free for children below 4. It’s important to note that prices vary depending on the tour.
  • Google Maps link: Stark Caverns

Jacob’s Cave

First opened in 1932, Jacob’s Cave was the first commercialized cave in the Ozarks area. The cave is popular for its ceiling sponges, reflective pool, and depth illusion. It’s also best known for the world’s largest geode and prehistoric bones belonging to mastodon, bear, and peccary. Evidence of three earthquakes can also be seen in the cave.

On the one-mile-long tour, you will come across beautiful cave formations ranging from massive stalactites and columns to millions of soda straws and delicate helictites.

  • Address: 23114 State Hwy TT, Versailles, MO 65084, United States
  • Website: Jacob’s Cave
  • Phone number: +1 573-378-4374
  • Entrance fee: $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 5-12, and free for children under 4.
  • Google Maps link: Jacob’s Cave

Final Thoughts

The caving systems in Missouri offer an opportunity for everyone with the urge for adventure, scientific research, or the curiosity to ‘know what lies beyond.’ It may also be for other reasons, but it’s often a mixture of all these put together. However, humans are not suited to the cave environment. Therefore, one must be aware of certain techniques and adequately equip oneself before embarking on cave exploration. For example, most of the caves mentioned above must be explored on foot, except the Fantastic Caverns. So, always make sure you have appropriate footwear.

Top image on this page: Dave Thomas via Flickr / Creative Commons.

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