Onondaga Cave State Park, Leasburg

#31 of 103 in Nature in Missouri
Onondaga Cave State Park is a Missouri state park located on the Meramec River approximately southeast of the village of Leasburg. The park was established in 1982. Park activities include cave tours, camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking, and swimming.
In 1850, the area was settled by George and Statirah Cresswell, who moved to the region from Washington County, Missouri with her adopted family. The family built a mill on the Meramec River near Saranac Springs. When a large flood destroyed Cresswell's mill in 1881, the property was purchased by William Henry Rollision Davis. A new mill was built on the property further away from the river at Davis Spring (now Onondaga Spring).
In 1886, while studying the outlet of the spring that powered the new mill, a local resident by the name of Charles Christopher discovered that a cave existed behind the spring. With a borrowed boat and two of his friends (John Eaton and Mitis Horine), Christopher entered the cavern and spent an entire day exploring the tunnels within the property. Inspired by their adventure, Christopher and Eaton acquired the land over the cave and began developing their discovery as the "Mammoth Cave of Missouri", spawning a property dispute with Davis that lasted more than fifty years.
At the time, "cave onyx" was in demand for architecture, and many caves in the area were being harvested for this purpose. Funds for development of the cave was something neither Christopher or Eaton could spare. Unable to decide whether to continue the cave as a mine or as a tourist destination, the pair had the cave surveyed in 1897 for mining but also gave tours to make the money needed to develop the caverns further. Arthur Hitch, one of the first tourists in the cave system, released a publication about the cave using Eaton's own flash-powder photographs.
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Onondaga Cave State Park Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
77 reviews
  • This is an interesting and truly cool natural wonder. They have regular tours, paranormal tours, photography tours, lantern tours. I've been on photography tours and the guides are great. If you would...  more »
  • We went here and hiked the Deer Run trail while visiting St. James. Hike was medium difficulty, a nice ~3 mile loop with a beautiful view of the Meramac river on the way back. Staff at the park center...  more »
  • I FINALLY did both Cave Tours. The Cathedral Cave tour was given by the most awesome guide EVER - Natalie rocked. She had tons of info to make the tour more enjoyable. She was fantastic in every single way. The Cathedral Cave is flash light only and that makes it even more cool. The Regular Cave tour was given by Jessie and she too was fantastic. She was funny and lead a large group of us through the cave. She did a terrific job of making the tour memorable. Oh and we SAW A BAT - how cool. Like a live bat which is pretty rare I hear. Then on the second tour we saw Natalie again as she was attempting to rescue a downed First Aid Kit... No man, woman, or First Aid kits left behind in this cave. The whole crew here is fantastic and it is money very well spent to come explore this cave. Bring the family, bring your camper, and you won't be dissapointed thank you all so very much. Love you guys.
  • Emma lead our tour and she was fantastic. I've been here a few times and I always enjoy it. This cave is perfect for a hot summer day. You'll need a light jacket. Great place to take photos. Nice park about 90 minutes from Missouri.

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