Onondaga, Onondaga, Onondaga…CAVE!

Back before the State of Missouri took over management, Onondaga (and its other side, falsely separated by human property bounds — therefore razor wire — FKA ‘Missouri Caves’) were privately held, just as my family held large swaths of what’s now called the Mark Twain Forest. I’m already digressing…


When they were still privately held, we had those crappy local adverts you may remember from the 70s and earlier. The one I refer to in the title was meant to maximise the name ‘Onondaga’ not just to remember but as a Native American chant — like a war drum: ‘ON on da ga ON on da ga…’

Missouri is known for many things, including being The Cave State. Anheiser-Busch and many other breweries made good use of free cold storage below them in said caves!

Caves are a common feature on peoples’ properties and are often accessed by water, also quite often enough during drier seasons (makes sense). Sadly, we suffer spelunking deaths when people venture forth, into perfect darkness during spring or summer when flash flooding occurs.

Onondaga’s true entrance is accessed beyond a spring, under a bluff, by lying flat in a john-boat, using your hands to push the boat along the shallow cave ceiling entrance before it opens up. This is super common for our area and I assume a lot of caves around the world.

Inside, along the ‘tourist routes’ -there are several pathways, some in terrible disrepair and some fine but kept only for geologists and those who study bats or salamanders–Naturalists; this always makes me snort because I think ‘Naturists’ like a 12 year old). I would t think Naturists would stay long with a temp of 57F / 13C year-round — and you’re constantly dripped upon from above with ‘cave kisses’ are found lighting to highlight certain formations.

These are dutifully extinguished as the light causes algae to grow. In part, it’s unsightly but far worse, it provides a food source that a) shouldn’t be there, therefore changing the environment to one that indigenous species would change to start eating and then die off when it went away or worse, b) invite fauna who had no place here. Again, if it happened naturally, it’s evolution that they’d have to suss or perish but since MAN did it to them, it ain’t cool.

Where was I?


The guided tour currently costs 15USD Plus Tax per adult for the normal tour–there are special tours, too.

Here’s a brief part I videoed as there was enough space here that I wasn’t dwarfed by every tween ahead of me, let alone the grownups. Stoopid stature.

Like anything in nature that’s photographed, you just don’t get the SCALE of it. If you have been to other caves, this might be a little more informative of what Onondaga has. If you haven’t, it’s just well, sorry, a terrible representation but I don’t know how one could do a better job because Nature is amazing BUT difficult to ‘show,’ unless you’re there.

The ladies room is full running water and electricity but leaves a tad wanting.



4 thoughts on “Onondaga, Onondaga, Onondaga…CAVE!

  1. Thank you….we see lots of TV documentaries about national parks in the US, but never seen this one. I’ve only tried to photograph inside a cave once and the pictures were crap, and like you mention gave no indication of the scale of things.


    • The video I shot of ‘the twins’ and the woman speaking in background is a neat part of the cave. There are larger structures by fat but these a similar in size (now) but one is active, the other dormant, and they’re coloured differently, so it’s neat to compare-contrast them!


  2. It’s one of the things I hate about my shitty photographic skills. I know there’s no point in me getting 500 quids worth of camera, as I’d still make shitty pictures. I like to take my shitty pictures though, as it acts as an aide memoire as to how fantastic what I saw with my own eyes was.

    It also lets me give someone else a flavour of how ace a place was.

    I still say you should work for the tourist board. That 2nd video is REALLY lame.


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