Exploring Missouri’s Meramec Caverns

Meramec Caverns is the Cave State’s most-visited cave with some 150,000 visitors annually. Missouri has more than 5,600 recorded caves, including 20 show caves, like Meramec Caverns, which are open to the public for guided tours.

Bring a sweater or jacket, it is 58 degrees in the cave. photo by Jeff Hobson

History – Meramec caverns was formed from the erosion of large limestone deposits over millions of years. Pre-Columbian Native American artifacts have been found in the cave. Centuries ago, Native Americans used the cave for shelter. The first cave west of the Mississippi River to be explored by Europeans, it was again “discovered” in 1722 by a French miner.

Civil War Era History – During the 1700s, the cave was used for extracting saltpeter for the manufacture of gunpowder. In the Civil War era, the Union Army used the caves as a saltpeter plant, but the plant was discovered and destroyed by Confederate guerrillas, including future famous outlaw Jesse James.

Legend has it that James and his brother and partner in crime Frank used the caves as a hideout in the 1870s. One tale claims that the sheriff sat in front of the cave for days, waiting for James Gang to emerge however, James found another exit.

Admission to the cavern tour is $19.50 per adult, $9.75 for children 5-11, children 4 and under are free. photo Jeff Hobson

The Route 66 Story – An original Route 66 stop, today Meramec is still one of the state’s most popular vacation sites. Noted caveologist Lester Dill, opened Meramec Caverns as a tourist attraction in 1933. Further cave exploration discovered 26 miles of underground passages.

Well before bumper stickers were self adhesive, Dill paid kids to paste the Meramec Cave signs on visitor’s auto bumper while they took the tour. One of those kids was Dill’s grandson who owns the cave today.

The Gift Shop –  is loaded with the type of old fashioned Route 66 type souvenirs and many modern gifts. Some of the most popular items are: rocks and minerals, T-shirts, jewelry, books, knives, clocks, and games.

The restaurant serves good home style cooking. Schedule special family reunions, birthday parties, company gatherings here. The restaurant can also cater outdoor picnics, Bar-B-Que, and box lunches.

Also onsite: Caveman Zipline, Cavern Canoe And Raft Rentals and Jesse James Wax Museum.

The Details: Meramec Caverns Web Site: http://www.AmericasCave.com is just over an hours drive from St Louis. Take Exit 230 off of I-44 at Stanton, then about two miles

1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO 63080, Stanton, MO 63079, Phone: 573-468-3166, Email

Hours vary by month: May-June: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; July-Labor Day: 8:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; November-February: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; March and October: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; April and September: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

For travelers with disabilities, the cave is partially wheelchair accessible. Enjoy guided tours by trained rangers conducted along well-lighted walkways.

Meramec is easily navigatable, with a portion of the cave being wheelchair accessable.

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Cave tours and zipline discount coupons are available at VisitMO.com .

Latitude: 38° 14′ 54″
Longitude: -91° 5′ 19″

For up-to-date information about St. Louis, call the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission at 1-800-916-0040.

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