The Best Caves in Missouri, USA: Complete List

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

Missouri is a state that is found in the Midwestern US, surrounded by 8 states, and named after the Missouri River. There is evidence that humans have lived in this region for over 12,000 years. You may be stunned to learn that approximately 7500 caves have been recorded in Missouri alone.

So how does a state like Missouri or Tennessee have thousands of caves, while others like Delaware have not even a dozen? At least in Missouri’s case, there is a significant amount of soluble carbonate bedrock, which is otherwise known as limestone.

As this rock lays below the surface, and is easily dissolved by water, it is much easier for this layer to fall apart over time, creating natural caverns of various sizes.

In this article, we will look at some of the most popular and interesting caves to be found in the state of Missouri. The next time you’re in the area, you’ll know that while there are thousands, we have you covered on the absolute must-see ones on the list.

Bluff Dweller’s Cave

Discovered in 1925 and opened to the public in 1927, Bluff Dweller’s Cave gets its name from the people who used to live in the area.

Artifacts like arrowheads, grinding stones, and tools found during the first couple explorations of the site intrigued early explorers. They believed the site was used by ‘Bluff Dwellers’, or Native Americans.

The cave was thought to be used for storage and shelter by them. Bluff Dweller’s Cave is home to many visually striking formations, making it a popular place for Missourians and tourists to visit year round.

This limestone cave features myriad stunning speleothems. You can expect to see stalagmites, stalactites, cave corals draperies, flowstone, and rimstone.

There’s even a crystal lake, which is the largest in the state at 75 feet (22.8 meters) long. Bluff Dweller’s Cave has been successfully preserved for over a century by the owners, the Browning Family.

An image shows the Crystal Lake that is found at the bottom of Bluff Dweller's Cave.

Fantastic Caverns

Popular for its ride through tour, Fantastic Caverns is a show cave in Springfield. It’s history began in 1862, when it was discovered by John Knox. Knox didn’t want the caves to be exploited by the Confederate/Union governments at the time to source saltpeter, so he kept the area secret until 1867.

After Fantastic Caverns were opened to the public, they were used as a speakeasy, Ku Klux Klan meeting area, and a concert hall. Due to the sensitivity of the caverns’ formations, the cave is only accessible via ride through tour, but it’s still a very fun experience.

You can expect to see many beautiful columns of stalactites and stalagmites, soda straws coated in sparkling minerals, cave corals, and cave pearls in underground pools.

A picture shows a guided tour through the Fantastic Caverns in Missouri, where people sit in a long trailer and get driven through the caves.

Jacob’s Cave

Popular for its magic-like illusions, Jacobs Cave is unique. It is located between Versailles and Gravois Mills. Visitors can expect to see depth illusions, reflective pools, ceiling sponge work, huge columns, helictites, and even prehistoric bones. The various formations in Jacob’s cave are sure to surprise you.

Jacob’s cave was opened in 1932, and was the first of its kind as the first commercialized cave in the Ozark Area. This area is open for walking and crawling tours. If you wish to visit, keep in mind that the cave stays at a chilly 52 F. Be sure to bring warm clothes.

Marvel Cave

Marvel Cave is a highlight of Silver Dollar City. Its array of mystical pathways and rooms make it an appealing tourist stop, even throughout the year.

This cave is one of the deepest in Missouri at 505 feet. Composed of various rocks like sandstone, bedrock, limestone, and dolomite, erosion has worn on them for many years. This led to the formation of numerous waterfalls, even at the deepest points of the cave.

Some of these falls (like the Waterfall Room) are not always open, as they flood often.

In addition to the formations in Marvel Cave, the legends surrounding it also give it allure. There are said to be ghosts living in the cave. These ghosts are rumored to walk and sometimes you can even hear them laugh.

An image of the massive Marvel Cave of Missouri, where bright blue light filters in from the top.

Meramec Caverns

The Meramec Caverns are a set of limestone caves. First developed as saltpeter mines during the Civil War, these caverns became popular as a spot for dances as time went on. Jesse James, an outlaw notorious for his bank and train robbing, also reportedly used the area as a hideout. This only contributed to its fame.

While Meramec can’t boast the largest set of caves, it does have its own specialties. The formations held in it are some of the most sculptural and delicate in the area. They are extremely visually appealing, and modestly enhanced by technology added to each area.

Guided-walking tours depart every 20-30 minutes starting at 9:00 a.m. each day.

An image shows the massive sea of stalactites hanging over the waters below inside the Meramec caves of Missouri.

Onondaga Cave

Back in 1982, Onondaga Cave State Park first opened the doors to the Onondaga Cave. A local resident discovered it and named it after an Iroquois tribe. The name Onondaga roughly translates to ‘People of the Mountain’.

When coming here, make sure to look, but not touch the towering stalagmites, dripping stalactites, underground pools, and actively changing flowstone formations.

Adding to this, the cave is home to many types of fish and amphibians you wouldn’t normally find above the cave. As a show cave, Onondaga offers free seasonal tours. You can even travel by boat!

Learn more about Onondaga Cave State Park here.

An image of the massive variety of formations at Onondaga Cave at Missouri's Onondaga State Park.

Skaggs Cave

A favorite among cavers, Skaggs Cave is lesser known but still very intriguing. It houses many beautiful formations in an easily walkable space, but still provides a challenging adventure thanks to its crawlways.

An example of the challenge presented at this cave is Harlen’s Puzzle. Harlen’s Puzzle is a maze-like section of crawl ways that lead to the interior of the cave. This part of the cave doesn’t have signs to guide you, so be sure to bring a map or cave guide.

Skaggs Cave holds helictites, aragonite crystals, and various cave life, making it a unique experience. Skaggs Cave is accessible by permit only.

An image of Skagg's Cave shows various cave formations and dimly lit paths toward them.

Smallin Civil War Cave

Listed as a Historic District by the National Registry, welcome to Smallin Cave, Missouri’s only documented civil war cave. Used to store ammunition and as a resting place for Union troops, the cave is historically significant.

You can even find some remnants of this, as the cave has many carvings dating back to the mid-1800s.

Smallin Cave is also home to numerous surprisingly beautiful rock formations as well as Bristly Cave Crayfish (a rare species), making it an interesting stop.

The area is open year-round, and there are various walking and caving tours available. These tours have portions of watery and rugged terrain, so be sure to bring the correct gear if you’d like to go this way.

A look at the natural vegetation outside the mouth of Smallin Cave, the place where Union troops rested and stored ammunition during the Civil War.

Talking Rocks Cavern

An image shows the ceiling and formations found at the caves of Talking Rocks Cavern.

Talking Rocks Cavern is a system of caverns in Stone County, Missouri. It houses diverse stalagmite, flowstone, and stalactite formations that you can see very up close.

Examples of these are the ‘cave bacon’ and ‘curtain’ stalagmites.

These formations present constantly change, due to the water around them. Thus, the Talking Rock Cavern is technically a living cave.

Talking Rocks is also home to various cave flora and fauna. You do not need to bring much gear to this cave, as it’s a show cave. However, reports say to expect wet and slippery grounds during rainy days.

Check the weather before you come and dress accordingly.


Known as the “Cave State”, there are quite a lot of fun sites to visit while you’re in Missouri.

The four show caves (Onondaga, Cathedral, Fisher, and Ozark Caverns) are a great start, but there are so many more places you should consider.

When you finally finish up with Missouri, be sure to check out some of Missouri’s neighbors! There are 8 bordering states you can choose from:

Arkansas Caves

Illinois Caves

Iowa Caves

Kansas Caves

Kentucky Caves

Nebraska Caves

Oklahoma Caves

Tennessee Caves

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