There are thousands of caves in America, and many of them are right here the River Valley Region of Missouri. The caves you find in Missouri are dolomite and limestone caves formed by water dissolving and washing away the calcite. This area of Missouri has an abundance of springs and it is not uncommon to come upon an opening along the Black River that is relatively new. On the day that we discovered the cave in the accompanying video, we also saw a wonderful spring cave that we had not previously noticed even though we are very familiar with this stretch of the Black River.
Before you dive into the adventures of Spelunking, be sure to check out the state laws and regulations for caving. These laws vary depending on whether you are playing on private property or conservation lands. Regardless of where you explore remember the motto, "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time." You can find everything you need to know about the mystery below on the Missouri Department of Conservation website.
Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind: 1. Don't touch the interior of the cave if at all possible; caves have delicate ecosystems and the addition of human disturbance may increase damage to rock formations or infestation of the local inhabitants through contamination from other cave locations. 2. Change clothes and decontaminate your tools including your shoes before you enter a new cave. WNS: White Noise Syndrome is a serious threat to our bat friends. Never visit more than one cave without taking time to protect its inhabitants.
Finding a cave is magical, it's fun to imagine who might have been there before you. You may be the first to step foot into the cool darkness or you may be following in the footsteps of the man who hid his treasure there long ago! Buried or not, every cave holds a treasure for those who find it.
Did you know that the combination of Missouri's caves and German influence played a strong role in Missouri's economy? Caves keep a constant temperature and are therefor good for the lagering of beer. Several breweries were built atop caves, and many beer gardens were housed in their inviting coolness; besides a cool dip in one of Missouri's spring-fed rivers, what better way to escape a scorching St. Louis summer?
Folklore suggest that the caves of Missouri may have been used in the Underground Railroad. Besides their uses as lodging, refrigeration, entertainment and sources of minerals such as saltpeter (used to make gunpowder), the mines are also a great place to escape after a train robbery! Whatever angle lures you into the sport, remember to educate yourself on safety measures and legal responsibilities.
Hope to see you on the trail!