Inside Fantastic Caverns
SW Missouri Caves-The Ozarks Underground
The Ozark region is known for its caves. Below our feet, the Ozark Mountains are made of highly porous limestone and dolomite rock, honeycombed with sinkholes, tunnels and springs. And, of course, caves.
Some of the caves are important for their stone formations; others have become famous for fossil remains and artifacts. Still others have the distinction of being hideouts for Civil War troops or for outlaws on the run.
Many caves are on private land and not accessible, but there are several Missouri show caves around the area that you can tour. If you're looking for things to do in Springfield, MO, or things to do in Branson, MO, grab your jacket (caves tend to be chilly) and head out to see what's underground.
Springfield Area Caves
Smallin/Civil War Cave
Explorer Henry Schoolcraft found this cave in 1818, but Osage Indians knew about it long before that. Legend says Civil War Union troops used the cave to hide spare ammunition and artillery.
Said to have the largest opening of all known Missouri Caves, and occupied by blind cave crayfish, bats and rare cave species. Take the guided walking tour, or sign up for a guided off-trail slog through cold cave water with only a headlamp for illumination. 3575 N Smallin Rd, Ozark. 417-551-4545.
Known as America's only ride-through cave and located just northwest of Springfield. Convenient for families with young children, seniors, or those who can't manage the walk. Riding gives you extra time to view the formations and listen to the tour guide's stories.
Discovered by a farmer's dog in 1862 and first explored by a group of women cavers in 1867. It's located at 4872 N. Farm Rd 125, Springfield. 417-833-2010
A family-owned cave five miles from Springfield. First opened in 1893, with some evidence of Indian use before that. Dirt and stone paths, and owner Loyd Richard will be your guide. 7225 E. Crystal Cave Ln. 417-833-7225
Branson, Missouri Caves
Two spectacular caves await you in Branson.
The most well-known cave in the Branson region, and part of Silver Dollar City. First discovered by Osage Indians in the 1500's and opened as a tourist attraction in 1894. The one-hour guided cave tour is included in the Silver Dollar City admission fee.
The cave's entrance is 300 feet below the surface and the trail is a series of 600 stairs and numerous ramps. If you have physical limitations, you are encouraged to pass on this one. You end up 500 feet below ground at the end of tour, and are - thank goodness - returned to the surface by cable train.
Talking Rocks Cavern
Filled with thousands of crystal formations showing great variety in shapes, colors and textures, all enhanced by dramatic lighting. The pathways and steps are concrete.
Back on the surface, play miniature golf or do some gemstone mining on the grounds. Walk the SpeleoBox - a maze of 150 winding and twisting feet meant to simulate the experience of exploring a cave through wooden passages. Stroll the nature trail or climb the 40 ft. tall lookout tower. Bring lunch and refuel at the picnic grounds or on the family deck. Just minutes west of Silver Dollar City in Branson West. 423 Fairy Cave Ln. 417-272-3366.