Missouri is also known as the Cave State with more than 7,300 [2021] surveyed caves including 18 commercial caves open to the public [2021]. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri are the States with the largest amount of caves in the United States. Missouri is divided into three parts:

  1. the the rolling plains of the prairie in the north,
  2. the ridges and deep valleys of the Ozarks in the southwest
  3. the flat delta area of the southeast

As the karst with its caves is concentrated to the Ozark area, we will do the same. Part of the Ozarks lies in RegionArkansas, so you will find some more caves there.

The Ozarks

The Ozarks are called by geologists the Ozark uplift or Ozark dome. This area is the result of repeated episodes of submergence, deposition, uplift, and erosion. During times when the area was submerged under the ocean, limestone and dolomite were deposited. There were four mayor stages where limestone was deposited, the Cambrian Potosi Formation and Eminence Formation, and the Ordovician Gasconade Formation and Roubidoux Formation. The formations are separated by unconformities, where addional material has been eroded during exposed phases.

Younger rocks, deposited between 440 and 280 million years ago have been eroded completely during the last 280 Million years. During the last 280 million years, the area has been mainly in an uplift and erosion mode. The final major uplift took place during the Tertiary, between 50 million and 7 million years ago. The geological center of the uplift is located in the St. Francois Mountains in southeast Missouri. These are the oldest rocks in the Ozarks. Like a huge dartboard, the rocks get younger in irregular bands moving outward from the St. Francois Mountains.