Every so often, my family and I like to go down under for a while. You can do this in Missouri quite easily, without spending money on a plane ticket, since it’s not only the Show Me State, but also the Cave State. We’d been saying for about 5 years that we’d like to see Round Spring Cavern. A couple of weeks ago, we went there and got – under the wire – to take the tour.
Guides from the National Park System give tours of this cavern, and limit each group to 15. Of our 15 tourists, 5 belonged to a Chinese family whose children spoke very little English. Throughout the tour, the parents tried to interpret and translate the tour guide’s spiel. Oftentimes, their translations overpowered the tour guide’s voice. She would patiently wait for them to finish. The tour took a little longer than the standard 2 hours, but that was really fine with us.
As we grabbed our lanterns and headed into the entrance passageway, the guide said she would tell the person behind her in the line what the formations and animals were called. He, in turn, would pass it back to the next person and so on and so forth. Since my husband was the designated end-of-the-line-guy for the tour, by the time the information had come down the pike it was garbled.
But back to the tour … this cave is simply astounding, with its spleleothems, including helictites, spathites and rimstone dams. It also touts the usual tour items such as stalactites and stalagmites.
The cave served as a home to the cave bear, and he left his identifying mark in the form of a claw scratch about 10 feet up on a couple of rock walls.
One of my favorite “rooms” was the “Tobacco Room,” where bunches of stalactites hung in the forms of brown sheaves, just like in the tobacco barns of the Carolinas.
We saw bats, and salamanders, and a mosquito. Really. Pressed and preserved on the surface of a beautiful white flowstone, the mosquito serves as quite a conversation piece. How did it get in there? Whose DNA is it carrying?
The tour, of course, takes place in damp and clammy environment, but I hardly noticed the uncomfortable temperature or the fact that we were so far below the earth and often in claustrophobic situations. The fantastic colors, some of the best that Mother Nature has to offer, made us think “ooh” and “aah.”
The tours will held from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Tour times are usually 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., but you should call ahead for current information. You may want to get there early to reserve a spot. Then you can spend time waiting for the tour as you mosey over to view the beautiful Round Spring—an original collapsed cave with gallons and gallons of crystal blue water.
When you’re so close to Eminence, you might want to nip down to Winnfield’s on the main drag. This diner hails from the 1930s, and sports wonderful woodwork and an old-time soda fountain. The entrees get served on china plates. So, this place not only has some good food, but it takes the visitor on a trip down memory lane.
The older I get, the more I find I like to travel on that lane. And taking a trip to Round Spring Cavern just added a few more miles.
First published August 2002.