Meramec Caverns | Sullivan, MO
April 1, 2017
Yeah, you guessed it. This post is about caves. Specifically, Meramec Caverns in Sullivan, Missouri.
I can’t help but to remember the last time I was in a cave, because I have SO many photos of ourselves in a non-descript, one-hundred-foot-deep cave that sits at the entrance to the Napali Coast State Park on the Island of Kauai.
Even though we didn’t go there to see a cave, it didn’t stop us from taking selfies like we had discovered a stash of unicorns. The truth is, it was basically a drippy, dreary and dark garage.
Millions of Years of Artwork.
Meanwhile, back in Missouri, K.J. and I have behaved like true “locals” and completely ignored the 4.6 mile long system of caves and magical wonderment located just an hour away from our house. It’s our loss, because the people who DO go to Meramec Caverns are reveling at its light displays, eighty-foot-tall ‘stage curtain’ made of stalactites, super interesting history, and zip-lining!
We started out on the most beautiful spring day and took the short one-hour and fifteen minute drive south to Stanton, Missouri. Well, we forgot something at home and had to turn back – so, for us it was a two and a half hour drive… but, that was our fault. It so happens that it was the most appropriate of days – April Fool’s Day – because we sure felt foolish. [Read to the end to watch the video for THAT story.]
Overall, Meramec Caverns was well worth the trip (or, two – in our case).
This geological wonder is a monolith that extends hundreds of feet below ground with some of the most rare and awe-inspiring formations in the world. The caverns are beautifully presented with lighting and an easy concrete path and hand rails extending throughout. We were also pleasantly surprised to discover that there is extensive history and geological significance which has been painstakingly preserved. It is a very special cave system and equally unique experience.
The surface of the water inside the cave is perfectly still and appears to be crystal clear. In reality, it is an optical illusion. The water is actually reflecting the formations above.
Lighting is used creatively to enhance the stalactites and stalagmites to awe and inspire. Mirrored rivers fool your eyes to believing you’re looking into a deep chasm, only to realize it is the reflection of the phenomenal cavern overhead. The variety of formations and colors are beautiful.
Our tour guide used humor, anecdotes and history to keep everyone entertained as they lead groups ranging from 10 to 75 tourists at a time through the cave system and back again.
Our Take On It
While we didn’t exactly step into Narnia, the tour did not disappoint. The ever-changing formations, well-placed lighting and informative and entertaining tour guide made it a satisfying experience.
We will leave some of the details about the cave and grand finale as a surprise. As a hint, it involves a video / musical presentation and a very clever use of a 700+ Million year old stage curtain. It’s quite impressive.
Perhaps the best endorsement we heard was from one tour-goer who said she likes to take the tour several times a year – alone – just to see what new and interesting formations she can spot each time. Now that’s an endorsement.
The stalactite “Stage Curtain” displays colorful lights and a presentation during the tour.
Colorful lights and a musical presentation is displayed on a stalactite “stage curtain.”
For us, the highlights of the tour include:
- The third largest stalactite in the world,
- An 80-foot tall stage curtain of stalactites,
- Underground rivers and waterfalls,
- Outlaw history (complete with statues),
- A spacious and fun gift shop,
- An ice cream parlor,
- Clean bathrooms,
- Zip Lining (although, we did not partake),
- Campgrounds and RV areas,
- Boat tours on the Meramec River,
- and… more.
There are approximately 58-60 steep, often wet, stairs to climb in order to reach some of the most impressive formations. It’s worth it if you can make it up and back down. I’m not the most agile bear, but I found it pretty easy by just taking my time.
It is noteworthy to mention that while the steps are in good shape, solid and paved with grooves for traction, there is no elevator. The steps can be sort of steep, lighting is dim, and the stairs are often wet. Anyone with serious mobility issues may have to skip one small section of the tour leading to the “wine room.”
Those who cannot make it up the steps to the “wine room” are respectfully offered a detour to the grand finale area where there is lighted, comfortable seating. The rest of the tour makes the short trip up and down the stairs, then the group reunites for the grand finale.
Things to Know
Bring a jacket. It’s 58 degrees year round inside the cave. You’ll also want to wear shoes with decent traction (remember those 50+ steps that are wet and dimly lit?).
Oh, yes… and you will get dripped on a little bit. At least, once in a while. It is a cave with dripping formations overhead. It is minimal.
Also, if you bring your own pocket flashlight (to get a better look at some of the formations) please be considerate of those around you. Don’t be the guy shining people in the eyes with one of those super powerful mag lights. It’s rude.
The entrance has interesting displays and artifacts as you head toward the ticket booth.
Surprisingly, the caverns are privately owned, but you can hardly tell that it isn’t a state park. Your admission of $21 per adult & $8 per child (as of April 1, 2017) goes to into the coffers of a private family-owned enterprise. It is open every day from 9am – 6pm except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. In other words, stop by anytime… you won’t miss this one because of the time of year or day of the week.
Meramec Caverns is a terrific day trip for all ages. We don’t have children, however it appeared to us that children under four years of age bored with the tour quickly and had to be watched closely by their parents. On the other hand, school-age children – as well as their parents and grandparents – were quite mesmerized.
Check out our video below about our day at Meramec Caverns!
It was a lot of fun! Let us entertain you…
For the official source of information about Meramec Caverns, visit their website.
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