Caves and Karst

Over 300 caves have been identified within the boundaries of Ozark National Scenic Riverways, ranging from not much more than a rock overhang to one cave with almost seven miles of identified passages. Eight caves, including an open sinkhole, have been designated as outstanding natural features.

The Ozarks is an area typified by what is called "Karst Topography." This means that the geologic structures underneath the earth are made of soluble limestone and dolomite. Water has been at work underground wearing away passages- waterfilled ones we call springs and formerly water-filled ones we call caves. A karst landscape is one in which caves, springs, sinkholes and losing streams are found. Due to the porous nature of the ground, and the movement of water underground over sometimes great distances, groundwater in karst areas is particularly vulnerable to pollution.

Cave ecosystems are unique and delicately balanced, with major changes possibly occurring from relatively slight disturbances. Geologic formations in some caves are quite fragile, easily damaged by vandalism or visitor overuse. Their formation is extremely slow, and physical damage may remain in evidence for generations. Some caves have been used by man and animals since prehistoric times, and evidence of this use and artifacts may be easily obliterated. Some Ozark caves, which are better known or more easily reached, have received considerable visitation, and more damage and site deterioration have occurred. Caves may contain unsuspected hazards to visitors unfamiliar to such alien environments, and the threat of serious injury or death from falls or drowning is always present. Several caves have been identified as having critical habitat for the endangered Indiana and gray bats. Some of these caves are gated or signed to protect bat habitat. Presently ALL caves in the park, with the exception of Round Spring Cave and Devils Well, are CLOSED. This is to protect bat populations that are at risk from White Nose Syndrome, a disease killing millions of bats across the United States. Please respect these closures.

Tours of Round Spring Cave are offered daily during the summer months at 10:00 and 2:00. Tickets go on sale thirty minutes before each tour, and reservations are not accepted. Please do not wear or bring anything that has been in other caves. This is to help prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome.

Both the Federal Government and the State of Missouri take protecting caves seriously. To review the applicable state and federal laws click:

Missouri Cave Resources Act

Federal Cave Resources Protection Act Of 1988

In many cases the Endangered Species Act and other laws may also apply.

Public Caves

Visitor in Round Spring Cave.

ROUND SPRING CAVERN- The National Park Service conducts lantern tours for the public. These somewhat strenuous "underground hikes" are limited to the first 15 people. Wear sturdy shoes and bring a jacket or sweater, as it is cool in the cave. Tours are offered daily, at 10:00 and 2:00, during the summer months. Tickets are $5.00 for adults, $2.50 for children. Tickets go on sale 30 minutes before each tour and there are no reservations.

School groups may make special arrangements by calling 573-323-8093. Please try to schedule your school visit outside of the summer months. (May or Sept)

Devils Well - Located off Route KK near Akers, this unusual karst window allows a look at the earth's plumbing. Devils Well was formed when the roof of a huge cavern, containing an underground lake, collapsed. The result was large sinkhole, with an opening in the bottom through which you can view the lake. The water level is about 100 feet below the platform, and the lake may be as much as 80 feet deep. (it can fluctuate 8 to 10 feet depending on the weather.)

A "spiral staircase" has been built to allow viewing. The road is very steep and rough, it is not recommended for trailers or motorhomes. There is no admission fee for Devils Well and the area is open every day, all day.

Jam Up Cave - Located on the Jacks Fork River between Rymers and Blue Spring. Jam Up is a spectacular cave, but can only be reached by boat. The high entrance is about 80 feet high and 100 feet wide.(Note the size of the mature trees in the photo.) Much of the cave is filled with water, and there is a small underground waterfall. There is a natural skylight that provides some light to the inside. Please do NOT enter the cave, as all entering any cave in the park is prohibited.

Jam Up Cave is located within the Jacks Fork Natural Area. Missouri's "Natural Areas" program recognizes areas of great natural beauty or importance. This three mile stretch of the Jacks Fork River is home to four species of crayfish that are found only in the Ozarks and nine species of fish that are also limited to the Ozarks. There are many rare plants on the bluffs, some of which are "left-overs" from the ice ages. When the climate warmed, they survived in the cool wet niches among the bluffs and caves while their species became extinct elsewhere in Missouri. (Collecting any plants is prohibited by the National Park Service to preserve such rarities for your enjoyment.)

Some Cave Links

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 490
Van Buren, MO 63965


(573) 323-4236

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