Exploring the Ozarks' Caverns
As you spend a wonderful vacation this summer season in Branson, be sure to include in your must-visit list the Branson outdoors that include a visit to Ozarks’ Caverns which is located and underneath, Lake of the Ozarks State Park. When you explore the caverns, you will see spectacular formations, such as stalagmites, stalactites, helictites, soda straws, and so much more.
Cave salamanders, bats, and other cave dwelling creatures can also be seen along the tours. You will also see a small stream that flows through the cave, exiting at the mouth, and forming a fen in front of the cave. A fen is a wet area of land that is home to unique plants and animals that thrive in the moist environment.
Traditionally, speleological tours are participated by children and adults alike throughout the cave. All is required to use hand-held lanterns, as the cave does not offer electricity or lights, to preserve its natural beauty. This cave tour is designed for kids five and older and adults, and explore the cave on a basic level. This traditional cave tour is educational and gives general information about the cave, and answer whatever other questions the visitors may have. The speleological tours offer a more in depth look at some of the various aspects of the cave system. All tours include a look at Angel Showers, a unique, never-ending stream of water that seems to come straight out of the solid cave roof.
When you visit Ozarks Caverns in Lake of the Ozarks State Park, you’ll discover what lies beneath the surface. The caves are geologic features in the Ozarks, underlain by thick layers of soluble carbonate rocks such as dolomite and limestone. The water that seeps through subterranean cracks in the rock formation, helps enlarge some of the fractures. When the dissolving action of the water continues, the cracks will become large and the water-filled conduits form parts of extensive underground drainage system. The water-filled systems are gradually drained by deepening surface valleys, and they become the air-filled passageways known as caves.
A visit to Ozarks Caverns is a journey through one of these large, drained conduits. It is like an exploration in an environment where geologic processes can proceed unhindered by many of the erratic, erosive forces that shape the surface landscape. When the cave is a protected environment, dripping and seeping water can redeposit carbonate materials in the form of soda straws, helictites, stalagmites and a host of other geologic wonders that can be seen in Ozarks Caverns.
The Ozark Caverns Tour features Angel Showers, an unusual cave phenomenon. It is a never-ending shower of water that seems to come out of the solid ceiling rock. The protected cave environment also lets visitors to discover the claw marks left in the sediment fills by animals that sought shelter inside the cave thousands of years ago.
The creatures that live in Ozarks Caverns include four species of salamanders, four species of bats, and 16 species of invertebrates. Four of the invertebrate species live exclusively in caves, these species never venture out of the protected environment. Ozarks Caverns is also home to many small, secretive cave critters, such as the blind grotto salamander, which sometimes can be on cave tours.
On the surface of the Ozarks Caverns, you will find Coakley Hollow Trail, which is a one-mile, self-guiding interpretive trail, it begins and ends at the caverns parking lot. This fascinating trail crosses a variety of habitats including glade, fen and an Ozarks spring branch. You will also find spring wildflowers around the area. Try to grab trail booklet which is available at the visitor center. You will get to know ample picnic sites on the grounds from this booklet.
The Ozarks Caverns offer two kinds of tours which are traditional tours and children’s tours. The traditional tour is an interpretive tour that lasts approximately one hour and is a half-mile round trip. Topics discuss in this tour include speleothem formation, general cave development, cave life or other topics visitors wish to discuss with the guide. The Children’s Tours is also an interpretive tour that lasts 30 to 45 minutes and is only a quarter-mile round trip. This tour is designed for children ages five and above. The tour will give children a chance to learn and explore the cave on a basic level.
In the Ozarks, you will discover another one of the most fantastic Branson outdoors, Talking Rocks Cavern. In the late 1800s, when the group of hunters were chasing rabbits, they stumbled upon a large hole in the ground. Because they were unsure of what to do with what they’ve discovered, they left it alone. It wasn’t until years later that Truman Powell, a local cave expert, became curious and explored what the hunters found. To his surprise, the hole appeared to be the opening of the cave.
With the help of some friends, Powell was lowered by rope through the cave opening where nothing is visible but the glow of a single candle. This man knew he had found something unbelievable and wanted to share his new discovery with anyone willing to come see it. On his return to the cave, he upgraded his candles to lanterns, and later wooden ladders were constructed to provide guided tours of the cave.
During that time, the cavern was special to Powell because the rocks “spoke” to him in a way that no other cave had that description – hence it gave the reason for the name “Talking Rocks Cavern.” This is not the original name of the cave. The current name Talking Rocks Cavern was given by the Herschend family, the current owners, in honor of Powell’s passion for caving and his legacy.
Today, all visitors can explore Talking Rock Caverns just like Truman Powell but without now the candle light and the creaky wooden ladders. The tour to this cavern allows you to see the natural beauty of the cave (including “cave bacon”) mixed with modern sound and lighting technology that will leave you dumbfounded of the incredible creation.
Whilw on the tour, the guide will give visitors a brief history lesson about the cavern. Then the visitors will enter the original cave opening, they go down through a set of stairs to the cave floor. The tour guide stops every few minutes to explain significant information of the cavern and how it was discovered and developed. The caves have no bats living in it, but there is a family of cave salamanders that make the caverns their home, and if you’re lucky you just might see them. The tour runs approximately one hour from beginning to end.
Talking Rocks Cavern also features two great hiking trails on-site which has a scenic observation deck and a mini golf course, making it an exciting way to enjoy the day. At Talking Rocks Cavern, every visitor can always have the chance to see the natural beauty of Branson inside and out.
Before you plan for a cave tour, you need to learn some helpful cave tips. Remember that caves are usually wet. Although steps are not slippery, always wear shoes with good traction that can give you good support because any stairs or sidewalks may have water on them.