Missouri is known for spelunking, otherwise known as cave exploration. Many folks refer to Missouri as the Cave State, because of the myriad of hollows, nooks, carvings, and crannies embedded in our rock formations. Missouri boasts over six thousand cave formations across the state.
Did you know you can walk on water? The crevices that make up Missouri caves are the result of centuries old river streams, running underground. Often, without realizing it, you are walking over roaring rivers covered by rock beds and mounds of soil. The Meramec River is fed by many springs, underground and above, making the area around our resort especially rich with caves.
Right across the Meramec River from Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort, sits Onondaga Cave State Park . Descend into another world, full of towering stalagmites, dripping stalagtites, and active flowstones.
For hours, tour schedules, group sizes, and availability, check their Cave Tour Information . You can buy discounted tickets at Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort.
Ever heard of Karst, and do you know what it has to do with caving?
Karst is an integral part of Missouri caves, and comes in a variety of forms. The name itself comes from the Karst region of Slovenia, along the Adriatic coast, where the landform was first noted. Karst is any terrain based on a layer of soluble bedrock, usually, though not always, of carbonate rocks. In the American Midwest, karst forms on limestones (calcium carbonate) and dolomites (magnesium calcium carbonate.)
Many variables affect the precise erosional forms which the karst takes. The mechanical structure and chemical composition of the rock, the local climate and temperature range, and the amount of vegetation and rainfall a region has all determine how fast a carbonate landscape erodes. Karst along a seaside is quite different than that inland, and tropical karst does not resemble karst in temperate or sub-Arctic zones. Landforms in zones with earthquake activity are quite different than that in quiet zones, or places where mountain-building have turned the layers of carbonate rock on edge. Some karst is formed as a result of sulfuric acid welling up from below instead of carbonic acid percolating down from above. Some places in the American West are a mix of the two processes.
But the karst of the Missouri Ozarks is almost textbook, and is characterized by well eroded rolling hills, deep hollows, springs, caves, sinkholes, losing streams, natural bridges, and tunnels. A few definitions:
- A spring is a natural resurgence of groundwater, usually along a hillside or from a valley floor.
- A cave is an airfilled underground void, large enough to be examined in some way by man.
- A sinkhole or sink is a collapsed portion of bedrock above a void. Sinks may be a sheer vertical opening into a cave, or a shallow depression of many acres.
- A losing stream is one with a bed with allows water to flow directly into the groundwater system. There are many chert bottomed losing streams in the Ozarks.
- A natural bridge or tunnel is a void beneath still standing bedrock, usually of short extent, and allowing human passage from one end to the other, at least part of the time. A natural bridge is somewhat shorter than a tunnel, and is more inclined to be air filled than partly water filled.
But before you go to Onondaga Cave, or any other Missouri Karst region, make sure you know caving Federal and State laws, written to protect this amazing natural resource. What happens below, definitely affects what takes place above.
For additional information on Missouri Caving, check the following resources:
Missouri Caves in History and Legend, by Dwight Weaver
Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri, by Thomas R. Beveridge, 1978, second edition revised by Jerry D. Vineyard, 1990, Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources, DGLS, Rolla, MO 65401.
Springs of Missouri, Gerald Feder and Jerry D. Vineyard, 1974, 1982, MDNR, DGLS, Rolla, MO 65401.