JEFFERSON CITY, MO, JULY 19, 2022 – Missouri abounds with natural wonders. Brimming with beauty, Missouri boasts stunning streams, rivers and lakes, an abundance of caves, picturesque forests and dazzling landscapes, but did you know it even has its own version of the Grand Canyon?
If the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is on your bucket list, but not in your budget, Grand Gulf State Park in southern Missouri offers its own natural wonder that you won’t soon forget. Some people call Grand Gulf State Park the “Little Grand Canyon,” while others just call it amazing. From a canyon to a cave to a natural bridge, this park has lots to see and do.
Covering 322 acres, the park presents a unique collapsed cave system more than 10,000 years in the making. With 130-foot high walls, the “Grand Gulf” stretches for more than a mile. Visitors can also see one of the largest natural bridges in the state, spanning 200 feet with an opening 75 feet high and 50 feet wide.
Park visitors can hike the trails, boardwalks and overlooks to view the canyon from the edge of the cliffs and descend partway into the chasm without putting themselves or the environment in danger. There is not a designated trail to the chasm’s bottom, so visitors are encouraged to use extreme caution if they decide to descend into the depths. There are also picnic tables scattered along the rim of the chasm.
While the cave is inaccessible now, it the late 1800s, early explorers had entered it and discovered a very low ceiling and several small, white eyeless fish. By the 1920s, a severe storm washed many downed trees and other debris into the gulf, filling the cave and leaving it impenetrable. In the early 1990s, a robot with a digging tool and remote camera infiltrated a significant way into the cave, determining it was not feasible to gain access through the massive blockage. Even now, heavy rains will fill the gulf to depths exceeding 100 feet with water slowly draining out over a period of weeks.
Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971, the property became Grand Gulf State Park in 1984 through a lease agreement between the Department of Natural Resources and the L-A-D Foundation. Visitors can find outdoor exhibits explaining Grand Gulf’s formation history.
Grand Gulf State Park is located about 6 miles west of Thayer on Highway W. For more information about the park, call 417-264-7600.
For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Remember, you are always welcome in Missouri state parks!