Exploring the Meramec Caverns

A visit to the Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Missouri does not really count as spelunking, as there was no equipment like ropes and carabiners were ever employed, and paths were already set along the cave. Being a commercial cave, the tour inside the 4.6-mile long cave system is just like a walk in the park - only that the park is deep underground, and the environment is cold and full of stalactites and stalagmites.  

The cave - located below the hills of Meramac Valley in the Ozarks - was (re)discovered in 1720. 

Formed around 400 million years ago by the erosion of limestone, the caverns have been used by Native Americans as shelter. It were then used by the notorious bank and train robber Jesse James as a hideout when he was hiding from the authorities

The caves also figured prominently during the  American Civil War, as saltpeter - primary ingredient for gunpowder - was mined from the caves in the 19th century. 

A Union gunpowder facility in the vicinity of the cave was destroyed by Confederate guerillas led by Jesse James [1]. Various Civil War artifacts, including handguns were dug in the caves, and are on display near the entrance to the cave.

The cave system contains 26 miles of underground passages with some caves stretching seven stories high. It also contains thousands of stalactites and stalagmites, and even one rare structure, called Wine Table, that only forms underwater. 

The most spectacular part of the caverns is the Stage Curtain, a mineral deposit 70 feet high, 60 feet wide and 35 ft thick (topmost photo). Stage Curtain is used as a backdrop for a light and sound presentation shown at the end of the tour.

The caves were opened to the public in 1933.

How to Get There: 
From St. Louis take I-44 west, drive for about 60 miles to Exit 230 (Stanton, MO), then take a left, passing over the railroad tracks and continue for 3 miles.

Useful Info:
Rates: adults ($19), children 5-11 ($9.50), below 5, free. Website here

by Kin Enriquez


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