by Deanna Bateson
October 16, 2004
For a nominal fee of $9 for adults and $5 for children over five, you are given an awe-inspiring, 75-minute tour conducted by an experienced park guide. Following the paved pathways, you hike more than a mile into the interior of the cave. You don’t have to be a spelunker (cave explorer) to manage the passageways into the cave interior.
The guide gives an interpretative commentary, pointing out magnificent stalactites, stalagmite columns, and cave formations created over thousands of years by drops of water dripping to the floor of the cave. As a visitor to this 1,300-acre cave ecosystem, you become acutely aware of its frailty even though it has been forming for geological epochs. You walk through the cave chambers the size of a football field with walls soaring over 80 feet high, which is aptly called the Big Room. Massive cave draperies have flowed over time and formed intricately deposited folds along the sides of the cave.
The Missouri Park System assumed the ownership of the Onondaga Cave in the 1980s when the cave was designated as a National Natural Landmark. The cave not only shows off its geologic diversity, but it also is the home to a great number of cave animals.
A word of caution: although the pathways are cement and roughened to help traction, someone with bad knees, back, or heart might want to take it extremely slow or call ahead to question about any restrictions. The pathways, at times, are steep, such as the one to the Lily Pad Room; therefore, use common sense when considering a trip to the cave.
The cave is a year-around 56˚F and damp, so a light jacket or sweater might be in order. Don’t forget to wear appropriate footwear, preferably sneakers or rubber-sole shoes. Cave tours are conducted from March 1 to October 31. We visited the park in October on a crisp fall day and the scenery was beautiful in the park.
Just 10 miles from the Coast to Coast Park Meramec Valley RV Camp Resort (#63) in Cuba, Missouri, the cave offers an excellent opportunity to play caver for an afternoon.
Directions: Take Interstate 44 to exit 214, follow state road H about seven miles southeast to Onondaga Cave State Park. It is well marked and easy to find. Call 573/245-6600 for more info.
From journal Caving in Missouri