Exploring Fantastic Caverns

9 years 5 months 1 week ago April 20, 2007 Apr 20, 2007 Friday, April 20 2007 Friday, April 20, 2007 4:33:33 PM CDT in News

Beneath the seemingly ordinary Ozark landscape of Greene county is an extraordinary display of nature's work: hundreds of caves.

Most of them are small and visitors can't easily explore them, but there is one cave where that's certainly not the case.

"In all of North America there is one cave you can ride all the way through and this is it," Kirk Hanson said.

The entrance to the cave in 1862, when the cave was first discovered, was pretty small and narrow. But, things have changed a bit since then.  Now, you can explore the cave from the comfort of a jeep drawn tram.

"We are directly related to the rain and the moisture on the surface of the cave...When it is raining up there, it is dripping down here. When water is moving in, cave things are changing," Hanson said.

And dripping and changing they are. The tour follows an ancient underground river.

"When this cave was forming, there was an underground river running right through here. And that river slowly carved out the passage ways that we're going to drive through today," Ronda Cox, a tour guide at Fantastic Caverns, said.

Visitors can enjoy the splended features without ever setting foot on the cave floor.

"it doesn't sound like much to young folks, or to me. All of our trains are equipped with lifts on them. We can accomodate most wheelchairs, familes with small children, [or] seniors who at this point in their life just don't want to walk anymore," Hanson explained.

The temperature is at constant 60 degrees year round and the tour guides bring ancient and recent history alive for visitors. One fascinating story recounts how the caverns served as a stage for nightly plays and even operas. Workers even mined saltpeter at Fantastic Caverns.

They say if you visit, just watch your head.

Fantastic Caverns is located just north of Springfield along Highway 13.

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