Sometimes, you just need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. The peace and tranquility of nature can offer a refreshing change, and caves offer a unique sense of mystery and exploration. If you’re in St. Louis, Missouri, also known as the ‘Cave State’, you’re in luck.

Missouri: The Cave State

Nicknamed “The Cave State”, Missouri holds the record for the second most caves in the United States. The name owes to the state’s over 7,000 surveyed caves, which play a vital role in its history, economy, and ecosystem. Caves were used for shelter and ceremonies by indigenous tribes, and later for cold storage and entertainment by European settlers. Today, they are cherished natural resources for education, conservation, and recreation. Now, let’s go spelunking!

Top Caves to Explore in East-Central, Missouri

Without further ado, here is our list of places to explore the unknown wonders of a cave!

1. Meramec Caverns, Sullivan

Meramec Caverns Jesse James Hideout

Less than an hour’s drive from St. Louis, the Meramec Caverns in Sullivan is one of the most popular caves in Missouri. Comprising a 7-layered limestone cave, it offers a spectacular display of mineral formations. Your guided tour will walk you through fascinating geological features like stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones, while enlightening you with stories of Jesse James and his notorious hideout.

2. Onondaga Cave State Park, Leasburg

If you want to enjoy the beauty of a National Natural Landmark, head towards Onondaga Cave State Park in Leasburg. This magnificent limestone cave offers a surreal underworld experience with its sparkling stalagmites, flowstone draperies, and towering stalactites. There are also park facilities for camping, fishing, and hiking, making it an ideal location for a weekend getaway.

3. Fisher Cave, Sullivan

Fisher Cave entrance

Also located within the Meramec State Park, Fisher Cave is a wild cave experience that shouldn’t be missed. Explore the beautiful and intricate soda straws, cave coral, and even see the 30 feet tall “Pipe Organ.” This cave requires a bit more physical effort compared to some others, but the awe-inspiring views make it all worth it. Make sure to book a guided tour in advance as the cave is only accessible that way.

4. Cathedral Cave, Leasburg

Photo of the inside of the Cathedral Cave in Missouri

Located in Onondaga Cave State Park, the Cathedral Cave tour offers a slightly different experience. The cave is accessed by a short tram ride and the tour, which lasts about an hour and a half, is lit by lanterns which provides a rustic and authentic cave experience. The namesake ‘Cathedral’ is a large room in the cave that’s ideal for group gatherings and events.

5. Crystal City Underground, Crystal City

Crystal City Underground

In the historical Crystal City, you’ll find a cave system that’s not only fascinating for its geological features but also for its unique entertainment offerings. This is the place where nature meets recreation. From a disc golf course to canoe rides, Crystal City Underground provides a different take on cave exploration.

So, if you’re in Missouri and have a keen sense of adventure, these caves are waiting for your exploration. Remember to always prioritize safety when visiting these locations, respect the rules and conservation efforts, and most importantly, have fun discovering the mysteries that lie beneath the surface of the ‘Cave State’!

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