Fantastic Caverns


Useful Information

Location: Off I-44 near Springfield, take rt. 13 for 2.5 km to Fantastic Caverns Road
(37.288576, -93.359699)
Open: Daily 8 to dusk.
Tours every 20-30 min.
Closed Thanksgiving, 24-DEC, 25-DEC.
[2020]
Fee: Adults USD 28, Children (6-12) USD 17, Children (0-5) free.
Groups (20+): Adults USD 18.50, Children (6-12) USD 7.
Season Pass: Adults USD 33, Children (6-12) USD 22.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightLED Lighting
Dimension: T=15 °C.
Guided tours: D=50 min., L=1600 m.
Photography:  
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:  
Address: Fantastic Caverns, 4872 North Farm Road 125, Springfield, MO 65803, Tel. +1-417-833-2010, Fax: +1-417-833-2042.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1862 discovered by a farmer's dog.
27-FEB-1867 first exploration by 12 women from Springfield.
1887 electric light installed, powered by a steam generator.
1920 converted into a gas-lighted Prohibition speakeasy.
1925 to 1937 meetings of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan held in the cave.
1950s renamed Fantastic Caverns, begin of weekly live country music shows named Farmarama.
1961 purchased by Mark Trimble, owner of the Shepherd of the Hills Farm near Branson.
1962 first “Ride-Thru” tour at Fantastic Caverns.
1966 managed by the Campbell family.
1967 Farmarama show ended.
1970s new light installed by cave lighting expert Roy Davis.
1992 purchased by the Campbell family.
2018 new electric light using LED installed.

Description

The tour through Fantastic Caverns is done on a large trailer pulled by a propane powered Jeep, which is called tram. This strange vehicle has room for about 25 visitors. Therefore the tour is convenient for handicapped, seniors or families with small children, if they are able to climb onto the tram. And for the protection of the cave, the Jeeps are powered by the clean burning propane. That's why it is called America’s Ride-Thru Cave.

It was discovered in 1862 by John Knox, who owned the land. His hunting dog chased an animal into the well-hidden cave opening. Knox entered the cave only far enough to retrieve his dog. The first exploration took place five years later and was carried out by a group of 12 women from Springfield. There is an interesting story behind this early women's liberation. Due to Civil War John Knox kept his discovery secret, because he did not want the cave to be exploited by the Union or Confederate governments. In 1867, two years after the war, he looked for someone to explore the cave with an advertisement in the Springfield Tri-Weekly Patriot newspaper. The Springfield Women's Athletic Club responded to the advertisement and 12 women explored the cave on 27-FEB-1867. They wrote their names on the cave walls, a historic document which today would be called graffiti. The description of the exploration was published in the newspaper.

The cave was equipped with electric light in 1887, we guess this was also the time of the opening as a show cave, and probably there were some other developments like trails and railings at the same time. The cave light was powered by a steam engine for the first 25 years, then a LightDelco-Light Plants replaced the steam engine. In 1920 the cave became a prohibition speakeasy and it was used for meetings of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

From the 1950s to the 1960s the cave was home to weekly live country music shows. This show took place in a room called Auditorium room which is large enough to seat several thousand people. The Farmarama show was nationally broadcast on NBC radio stations. It ended in 1967, when the increased visitation had grown to a level that made events difficult.

The cave life of Fantastic cavern is very interesting, several cave animals (troglobionts) live in this cave. The Ozark cavefish, the cave crayfish and the grotto salamander have two things in common: they are colorless and blind. This are typical adaptions of cave animals, who never see the sunlight in their lifetime. They loose the useless body pigments and eyesight in a process which is called troglomorphy.