With approximately 7,500 recorded caves in the state, Missouri has become known as the Cave State. Many areas of the state are underlain by soluble carbonate bedrock, such as limestone or dolomite, that can be easily dissolved by water. Slightly acidic rainwater filters into the ground and enters cracks and joints found in the bedrock; slowly dissolving it away. In time, the groundwater enlarges these passages to form caves. The water moving through caves can deposit minerals from the dissolved rock creating speleothems, or cave formations.
Caves are identified as either commercial or wild. A commercial cave, or show cave, is one that is accessible to the public for guided visits. Wild caves are in their natural state and have not been altered. Follow the links below for more information on Missouri caving. Water tracing helps improve our understanding about groundwater movement and how pollutants travel.
- Locate cave areas in Missouri using GeoSTRAT
- Learn more about caves and caving in Missouri from Missouri State Parks
- Tour a cave in a number of Missouri State Parks
- Learn about caves. Check out MoCast Podcast: Missouri Cave Caves. This podcast includes an interview with Jeffrey Crews, a geologist with the department's Missouri Geological Survey and Roxie Campbell, an interpretive resource specialist with the department's Missouri State Parks
- Learn about some of the caves below St. Louis. Check out Historium Unearthia Episode 13: A Hidden World Runs Rampant Under St. Louis. This podcast includes an interview with Jeffrey Crews, geologist with the department's Missouri Geological Survey
- The Deep Dark Secrets of the Cave State: Missouri's Fascinating and Hidden Geology, Biology, and Water Resources – MO State University Alumni Association’s latest MO Bicentennial webinar
Cave conservation, exploration, management and research
If you are interested in getting involved with cave conservation, exploration, management or research, check out these nonprofit organizations:
- Cave Research Foundation
- Missouri Caves & Karst Conservatory
- Missouri Speleological Survey
- National Speleological Society
Select publications about caves in Missouri
- Missouri – The Cave State PUB0664
- Caves of Missouri- Detailed account of the formation and history of Missouri caves (1956)
- Dark Wonders – Missouri Resources magazine article about karst, caves and springs in Missouri (2012)
- Top Spots to Take a Cave Tour – Missouri Resources magazine article about caves to visit (2015)
Use the document search to locate related publications.