Caves and choices in Missouri…

Locations of the caves along the route

Locations of the caves along the route (coming from St. Louis)

On around day 5 of the trip we will be in the St. Louis area and will likely be staying at the Meramec State Park and the current plan is to spend part of the day canoeing the river, and then do a guided tour of the Meramec Caverns

In doing some research about the area and looking at our trajectory i see some options:

Apparently Missouri is a state with lots of caves (second only in the nation to Tennessee), and right nearby in the State Park where we will be staying is Fisher Cave, and not far away is an additional state park with another cave/cavern (i am still not sure what the difference is between a cave and a cavern)…

It seems people have mixed reviews of the Meramec Caverns (see reviews here), and according to their own site, the cavern tour takes visitors on “well-lighted, walkways”… and the whole location seems like something very kitsch (which could be charming and part of the route 66 experience) with a motel, a campground, a riverboat ride, their own canoe rentals, panning for gold, etc…

Fishers Cave has a positive review (as a more “real” cave visit), and i actually called the park and spoke to a woman at the information desk there who said the cave tour at the park is definitely more “naturalistic” than a visit to Meramec, but still a solid 90 minute visit that includes about a mile or more of walking…

There is also the Onodaga Cave state park with a cave and a cathedral cave tour… it is a little further from St. Louis…

So question is… which cave/cavern do we want to visit…

here are the issues as to how they relate to our trip:

First, do we want something kitsch-y and touristic and definitely a Route 66 icon (Meramec), or do we want a more naturalistic experience (Fisher or Onodaga)…?

Second, which is most interesting? Meramec seems like the bigger, more elaborate (3rd largest something in the US, Jesse James hideout, a cavern versus a cave) choice for sure… but will the theatrical lighting and walkways make it less interesting than a more “natural” cave experience with flash lights and dirt floors (Fisher)… or will it conversely make it BETTER…

Do we want to take advantage of some of the other kitschy activities… like panning for gold… at Meramec Caverns… or is it more convenient to do everything at the State Park (canoe trip from there and cave tour without having to leave and drive to another location)… if we want to we can also choose to consolidate at Meramec Caverns (they have a campground and canoe rentals/shuttle for trip downriver which is probably about the same as the one offered from the park, though their campground might be a bit more “packed together”… think about the place we stayed that one time on a private campground in virginia… however, i cannot guarentee that the State Park is any “better” in terms of campground spacing)…

If we are staying at Meremac State park, going back to the Caverns requires us to backtrack a little bit (not that long, so we can do it if we want to), and if we wanted to go to Onodaga, it is even further away from St. Louis… (but as it is an end-point of the day, i would probably prefer closer to St. Louis, unless there was a real reason we preferred the idea of staying at Onodaga)…

see the relative locations and distances on here: View Google Map

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comments (2)

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