Fantastic Caverns is a vast underground network of caves carved out by an ancient river in the Branson - Springfield area of Southwest Missouri. Discovered by John Knox and his hunting dog in 1862, the caverns quickly became a popular destination to explore and today, visitors can enjoy a 55-minute guided ride-through tour in a Jeep-drawn tram.
The Caverns, which are America's only ride-through cave, were first discovered by the Ozarks farmer in 1962 and further explored five years later when 12 women from Springfield ventured into the cave after a newspaper advertised they were looking for small-bodied climbers and left their names on one of the interior walls. During the Prohibition years, the caverns have used a speakeasy and utilized by the Klu Klux Klan, who held meetings and performed cross-burnings in the Grand Ballroom. They hosted music concerts during the 1950s and 1960s, and radio shows during the 1970s.
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Ride-through tours began in the Fantastic Caverns in 1961 using post-World War Two Jeeps with gas powered engines. The tours were popular, but the cave walls didn’t fare very well with all the exhaust fumes from the automobiles, and eventually the vehicles were upgraded to run on cleaner propane.
Due to the fragility of the caves, tours are offered in customized jeep-drawn trams and offer visitors the opportunity to explore and experience the magnitude, the splendor and the tranquility of these great caverns while preserving its natural features. There is also one stage of the tour where visitors can touch a section of low ceiling dead stalactites, which are thousands of years old. Inside the caves, the temperature hovers around 60 degrees throughout the year.
Fantastic Caverns is a two level branch work cave. At one stage in the caves history, each level was filled with water but drained away over time to leave the vast caverns that are seen today. The jeep tours run on the dry upper level of the caves as the lower level is a wet weather stream and acts as a channel for streams of water during the rainy season, which moves through the cave to a discharge point at the nearby Indian Spring. Sometimes during a very rainy season, water on the lower level will back up and overflow into the upper level and flood the cave, causing all tours to be canceled. The water, however, is vital for the region as it fills and supplies wells in the area.
Fantastic Caverns is America's ride-through cave that offers tailored jeep-drawn tram tours to experience the natural beauty of the caves without putting them at risk. The comfortable jeeps cater for all ages and take visitors on a geological journey back in time as they travel through vast brightly lit passageways with thousands of speleothems, stalactites and stalagmites, massive columns, little soda straws, cave pearls, and flowstones, all created by water a drop at a time. Tours are down entirely by tram, and there is no walking involved and temperatures inside the cave stay around 60 degrees, making it an excellent all-season experience.
2.Plan Your Visit
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Fantastic Caverns offers a variety of educational programs, workshops, and classes for learners of all ages ranging from home school programs and classroom study guides to adventure tours.
The Adventure Tour is an exclusive 90-minute hands-on educational experience that uses the Cavern’s ‘underground classroom’ where students are equipped with lanterns and work at a ‘fossil dig site,' exploring, uncovering and identifying different fossils. Students learn about the animals that live in caves and catch glimpses of unique creatures such as cave crayfish or blind cavefish by lantern light.
Designed for school and scout groups, and summer school, the Mastodons Program is a 90-minute program that includes the all-riding tour through the caverns and exploring the world of paleontology. The tour includes a simulated paleontology dig in search of prehistoric animal remains, exploring a Mastodon track-way and using math skills to estimate the animal's size, weight, and gait.
Student Field Trips are available throughout the year for all grade level and feature a 55-minute, all riding educational cave tour that further explores the understanding of caves, karst, cave life and groundwater.
Back to: Best Things to Do in Springfield, Missouri
4872 North Farm Road 125, Springfield, Missouri 65803, Phone: 417-833-2010
Things to Do in Springfield, Missouri: Fantastic Caverns
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