In Missouri, the most common caving hazard is hypothermia caused by exposure to 55 degree water. Missouri is home to more than 7,300 caves, making us second to only Tennessee. Human burials, artifacts and rock art still bear silent witness to the way the Indians used Missouri caves over a period of some 10,000 years. The saltpeter mining, which may have begun with De Soto, was resumed by Phillip Renault in the 1720s and carried to its greatest heights in Missouri in the early 1800s by Gen. William H. Ashley. In the 1880s, Ruth Hoppin, an amateur biologist, captivated American zoologists with her discovery of blind albino fish and crayfish in caves around Sarcoxie. A large sheet wall of formations is known as the Stage Curtain, which is located adjacent to the caveâs Theatre Room. Visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, rafting, and boating in the area There are more than 40 caves in the park, the most fascinating of which is Fisher Cave. And in 1993, cavers of Missouri took a bold step into the future by organizing the Missouri Caves and Karst Conservancy (MCKC) with the help of the Ozark Regional Land Trust (ORLT). J Harlen Bretz, a distinguished geologist at the University of Chicago, tested the Davis hypothesis by doing fieldwork in the caves of the Ozark Uplift of southern Missouri. The MCKC also has purchased its first large wild cave in south central Missouri and looks to the future when it will own and manage other important cave resources throughout the state. It also maintains the right of private cave owners to manage or use their caves, as they see fit. Located near Stanton, Missouri, Meramec Caverns is a 4.6-mile-long cavern system offering guided cave tours, family-friendly outdoor activities, and lodging and campground options. The entrance is full of fascinating stalactites, columns, and stalagmites. A Mine Store also allows visitors to purchase gemstone jewelry and rock-related gifts. The caves are home to diverse wildlife, and there are even bear claw marks on some walls. In some instances the Conservation Department has specifically targeted cave resources used by the Ozark cavefish and endangered species of bats. Devils Well is an unusual "karst window" that allows visitors to have a look deep into the earth's bowels. Other notable features include the caveâs Musical Chimes, a series of draperies that produce a drum-like sound when reverberated, and a 10-Ton Balanced Rock which can easily be moved with two fingers. Bluff Dwellerâs Cave was formed during the Paleozoic Era from sediment deposits of Mississippian-age fossiliferous limestone, which was raised above sea level and carved by erosion during the Ozark Uplift.
The attractionâs Browning Museum offers a wide variety of natural history displays, showcasing indigenous Bluff Dweller artifacts collected from the cave and surrounding region, including arrowheads and grinding stones. Today, they are enjoyed by thousands of visitors for their unsurpassed natural beauty and fascinating geological formations thousands of years old. During the 1890s, the cave was used as a location for summertime cave parties to allow local residents to avoid the regionâs summer heat, which earned a portion of the cave the nickname âThe Ballroomâ due to its large open space used as a dance floor. A list of these grottos is available from the Conservation Department, or at
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