Missouri Speleological Survey, Inc.



Fact Sheet on 6000 Caves



Release date: May 14, 2005 (Spring Meeting of the Missouri Speleological Survey in Rolla)


The Missouri Speleological Survey, a state non-for-profit organization dedicated to locating and describing the caves of Missouri, announced that the number of caves in the state has passed 6,000. This milestone was reached due to the effort of Survey members and cooperators finding caves in Stone, Shannon, Pulaski, Christian, and other counties in the state.


What is a cave?

A cave is a natural cavity in rock which can be entered for an appreciable distance by a human.


How many caves are recorded in state at this time?

Missouri currently has 6037 caves recorded.


Is this the most in the United States?

No, Tennessee has more caves recorded than Missouri. Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, and West Virginia also have large numbers of caves, although fewer than Missouri.


Why does Missouri have so many caves?

Most caves in the state are formed in dolomite or limestone rock units; some relatively short caves are formed in sandstone or other non-soluble rocks. Much of southern Missouri has these types of rock. Another reason is due to the hard work of MSS cooperators in reporting caves.


How old are these rock units and the caves in them?

The majority of the caves are found in rocks dating from the Ordovician period (425-500 million years ago), lesser numbers in older Cambrian rock or younger Mississippian rocks. The actual age of the caves themselves probably varies from tens of thousands of years to millions of years.


What is a cave area?

The term “karst” is used to describe areas having large numbers of caves in them. In addition to caves, karst regions have sinkholes, springs, losing streams, and natural tunnels in them.


What counties have the most caves?

Perry 656

Shannon 535

Greene 360

Pulaski 350

Stone 283

Christian 220

Crawford 205

Texas 178



What are some of the most popular names of caves?

Spring 480

Hollow 192

Bluff 164

Bear 61

River 44


Are there caves in cities? Perryville and Springfield have large numbers of caves in and around them. Even the City of St. Louis has 28 caves in it.


What are the longest caves?

Crevice Cave, Perry County, 28.2 miles

Moore Cave, Perry County, 16.7 miles

Mystery Cave, Perry County, 15.8 miles

Rimstone River Cave, Perry County, 14.2 miles

Carroll Cave, Camden County, 11.3 miles

Powder Mill Creek Cave, Shannon County, 8.8 miles

Devils Icebox, Boone County, 6.6 miles

Piquet Cave, Pulaski County 4.9 miles

Cameron Cave, Marion County 4.6 miles

Meramec Caverns, Franklin County, 4.5 miles


What are the deepest (below entrance) caves?

Marvel Cave, Silver Dollar City, Stone County, 383ft below the entrance.

Most of the rest of the deep caves are divable springs, the bottom of the deepest of which is approximately at sea level.


How are depth and length calculated?

Caves are surveyed with standard methodologies utilizing tapes, compasses, and .clinometers.


How many Missouri caves have been mapped in this fashion?

Over 2900 cave maps are currently on file with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Geologic Survey/Resource Assessment Division.


Where are the highest and lowest caves in Missouri?

Highest caves in elevation are found in Wright and Webster Counties; the lowest in Scott, Stoddard, and Wayne Counties.


Who owns most of the caves?

Most caves (75%) are privately owned; public agencies own about 1500 caves total.


Where can I see caves being formed?

Caves are formed from processes that you can still observe: at large springs in the Ozarks, or in sinkholes in many parts of the state.


How have the numbers of caves known grown over the years?

Missouri Geologic Survey had list of caves about 1940 that showed 210 caves in 40 counties.

J Harlen Bretz wrote Caves of Missouri 1956 and recorded 437 caves in 55 counties.

The Missouri Speleological Survey was formed in 1956. By 1968 the MSS had recorded 2250 caves in 76 counties.

Today there are 6037 caves recorded in 83 counties.

53 of those new caves have been recorded since the beginning of 2005.

Most new caves being found are in south-central to southwest Missouri.


How are new caves located?

Some caves are discovered by accident. Others are located by natural resource work by government agency employees. Some are reported by the owners of the property the caves are on. Most are found by members and cooperators of the Speleological Survey searching areas of the state for new caves. Knowing the topography and geology of the area provides clues to places where caves might be found.


Are there more caves to be found?

Some large areas of suitable topography and geology have few caves currently known from them. There are probably still thousands of unreported caves in Missouri.


Who is doing all this locating work? Some of the most active are:

Ben Miller, age 26, Interpreter and resource tech at Onondaga Cave State Park (Cuba)

Scott House, age 51 (Cape Girardeau; contracted cave management specialist for Ozark National Scenic Riverways) and Missouri Speleological Survey cave files manager.

Andy Free, age 30?, Armory technician, Ft. Leonard Wood (Waynesville)

Randy Long, Cave Technician, Mark Twain National Forest (Ellington)

Michael Sutton, age 57, Ecologist, Cave Research Foundation (Lesterville)

Michael Carter, age 31, geography student, SMSU (Springfield)

Jon Beard, age 54, Occupation:  Training Designer at 3M for 27 years. (Springfield).

Tom Panian age 47, occupation - Union Carpenter, (Bourbon MO).

Steve Taylor age 47, freight conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad. (Kansas City)

Kirsten Alvey age 37, Food Service Manager and House Chef
for Kappa Alpha Fraternity at Univ of Mo. (Columbia)

Dan Lamping age 25 Student / Maintenance, (St. Louis)

James Corsentino age 36, Communications, (Springfield)

And many, many others…………


If studying caves and making maps interest you, and you would someday like to be on the list above, check out the MSS web site Projects area and/or talk to your grotto’s MSS Representative.



Scott House, Cave Files Manager

The Missouri Speleological Survey, Inc.