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Onondaga Cave, Leasburg

4.8
#19 of 101 in Nature in Missouri
Must see · Cave · Nature / Park
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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  • The cave was absolutely beautiful! The tour guides were amazing. Great prices. Easy to get to. Tours happen very often. Kid friendly. Onondoga Cave State Park offers camping, swimming (free), hiking.....  more »
  • If you like nerdy t-shirts, bring some money with you. I almost spent $300 in the gift shop; they have amazing designs of mushroom species, glow in the dark bats, lizards, etc etc. I fantasize about.....  more »
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