When porous limestone and dolomite come together, they make the Cave State. With more than 7,000 caves in Missouri, there’s probably a cave close to where you are now. Discover the depths of this natural phenomenon and its ancient connection to the Ozarks in this cave guide.

By Ren Bishop

This article is presented in partnership with Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Crystal Cave

Step through the old iron gates of the original Springfield jail and enter the naturally preserved historic cave, Crystal Cave. First opened to the public in 1893, Crystal Cave is an underworld of experiences. A tour guide navigates small groups through a maze of underground tunnels and nooks, including the spot where a mushroom garden sprouted in the early 1900s. Heads up: This tour includes stairs, tight spaces and some crawling at times.

Linger in the Ghost Room, where 13 stalagmites stand over 2 feet tall, untouched. Take in the Concert Hall, a space over 100 feet long that features a sea of soda straw stalactites hanging from above.

Smallin Civil War Cave

Go back in time at Smallin Civil War Cave. Jonathan Tipton Smallin was 17 years old when he volunteered for service in the Union Army in Missouri’s M Company of the 16th Cavalry. During his time in the Civil War, he became a friend of Wild Bill Hickok, who served as a Union spy and hid out in Christian County’s largest cave.

One-hour tours have no stairs, but plenty of history. See remnants of the Osage tribe, which used the cave for hundreds of years. View the waterfalls that gently cascade into a clear pool. Walk out of the past and into its above–ground playground, featuring a museum gift shop, crawl fort and fossil mining.

Fantastic Caverns

Fantastic Caverns is a family-friendly, ride-through cave experience that takes you into the breathtaking, wild nature of Missouri’s caves. An ancient underground river once carved the path that’s now traveled by Jeep-drawn trams leading guests on a 55-minute tour of the caverns. Guests get an up-close look at rock formations, dangling soda straws coated and shining with minerals and gleaming cave pearls in clear water along the way.

Fantastic Caverns was first discovered by John Knox who was looking for his dog in 1862, a tumultuous time in the region. Knox kept the cave’s potential hidden until after the Civil War. In 1867, Knox invited the community to view the space, and members of the Springfield Women’s Athletic Club were the first to brave the journey underground.

Talking Rocks

Above or below ground, Talking Rocks Cavern provides endless opportunities for exploration. Guests get an up-close look at growing, shifting, shining cave formations inches from the tour’s path, which winds in and out of chandelier stalactites and porous walls.

Above ground, families can mine for gemstones. Purchase a bag of mining rough and sift through the sand and dirt with screened boxes, all the while learning how to recognize semi-precious gems and minerals. Plus, every gem guests find, they can take home—a souvenir they’ll love for ages.