With more than 6,000 caves, it’s no surprise that Missouri is known as “The Cave State.” Just over two dozen of the caverns are “show caves” that offer regular tours to the public. Go underground to explore the beauty and history of Missouri’s caves.
Jeep-drawn trams take visitors through Fantastic Caverns, America's only “ride-through” cave, located near Springfield. Following the path of an ancient underground river, the trams provide a convenient way for people of all ages and physical abilities to enjoy the natural beauty of the cave without long walks, steep climbs and stairs. The tours last nearly an hour and feature stalactites, stalagmites, columns, soda straws, flowstones, cave pearls and drapery formations.
The first documented cave in the Ozarks, Smallin Civil War Cave holds a wealth of Missouri history. The cave entrance is a striking 55 feet tall and 100 feet wide. One-hour tours travel a half mile on pathways that are wheelchair and stroller friendly. Located near the town of Ozark, the cave offers Civil War lantern tours in the fall.
Excavation in Bluff Dwellers Cave, near Noel, has uncovered significant artifacts, including arrowheads, grinding stones, tools made of bone, and skeletal remains of the early inhabitants, including American Indians, that date back to 5,000 B.C. Only 50 percent of the cave is developed – the remaining areas are preserved for wildlife. Tours lasts 45 minutes to one hour.
A Registered Natural Landmark, Marvel Cave opened for tours in 1894. The cave, which lies beneath Silver Dollar City theme park, was the first attraction to bring tourists to the Branson area. One of the deepest caves in Missouri, it has one of the largest subterranean entry-rooms in the United States. The strenuous, hour-long tour include nearly 600 stair steps.
Author Mark Twain featured a cave that would eventually bear his name in five of his books, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain Cave, a National Natural Landmark located near Hannibal, was first shown in 1886. It is one of just a few labyrinth-style caves in the world, where the passages form crisscross patterns. The cave has no stairs, but good walking shoes are recommended for the one-hour tour. Cameron Cave, another cavern located nearby, offers lantern tours.
Radiocarbon dating indicates the shelter cave at Graham Cave State Park was inhabited more than 10,000 years ago. The park is located two miles west of Danville along the Loutre River. Visitors enter the mouth of the cave and view interpretive exhibits along Graham Cave Trail that detail the life researchers believe early inhabitants lived.
See giant columns, delicate “soda straws” and massive drapery formations during a one-hour tour of Bridal Cave. Located at the Lake of the Ozarks, near Camdenton, the cavern has more onyx formations than any other known cave. Thousands of couples have been married in the stalactite adorned Bridal Chapel.
Known for its reflective pools, depth illusions and what is believed to be the world’s largest geode, Jacob's Cave was the first commercial cave in the Lake of the Ozarks area. Located south of Versailles, the cave is also home to significant “soda straws” formations and prehistoric bones (mastadon, bear and peccary). The mile-long tour is accessible for people with physical limitations, and wheelchairs and baby strollers are available for those who need them.
Located near Eldon and the Lake of the Ozarks, Stark Caverns takes visitors on a one-hour journey through the ages to explore amazing geological formations, Native American artifacts and ancient bear beds. Learn about stalagmites, stalactites and fluorescent minerals, while discovering a whole new world underground. The cave also offers lantern and black light tours.
Reputed to have been used as a hideout by Jesse James, Meramec Caverns is home to some of the largest and rarest formations in the world. Located near Stanton, the cavern is Missouri’s largest “show cave” and one of the oldest attractions on Route 66. Tours are 1¼ miles long and take one hour, 20 minutes.
A National Natural Landmark, Onondaga Cave is recognized as one of the most spectacular caves in the nation because of the quality of its formations. The cave is part of Onondaga State Park, located near Leasburg. Tours last an hour and 15 minutes and cover about a mile of passageways.