If you’re a cave enthusiast who has bumped your head on a low cave ceiling one too many times, Fantastic Caverns near Springfield, Missouri is the cave tour for you. Fantastic Caverns features a tram that allows visitors to sit and gaze in wonder at various glistening cave formations without worrying about leaving the cave with a sore noggin.
Fantastic Caverns is most famous for its stately natural columns, which look as though they were constructed by a hearty group of dwarves to decorate a lavish throne room. Fantastic Caverns also features abundant mineral deposits that sparkle when exposed to LED light. One of the cave’s most striking characteristics are delicate cave pearls which look as though they were produced by the finest oysters.
Fantastic Caverns was discovered by chance in 1862 by a farmer named John Knox. Knox’s hunting dog wandered into one of the caves. John Knox kept the Fantastic Caverns a secret for some years because he didn’t want the beautiful space that he had discovered to be sullied by Civil War soldiers. In 1867, a group of 12 women seeking adventure answered a local newspaper ad calling for cave explorers. Thanks to these fearless women, the section of the Fantastic Caverns which is open to the public today was explored.
The cave that John Knox discovered in 1862 has functioned as a hidden speakeasy which served illegal booze during the Prohibition era, and a popular concert venue during the 1960s. In the 21st century, the current operators of Fantastic Caverns are primarily concerned with conservation. Fantastic Caverns is home to several rare animals—including blind, pale salamanders—that generally remain hidden to visitors. The proprietors of Fantastic Caverns go to great lengths to ensure that the cave’s unique beauty will remain intact and be preserved for generations to come.