crop happens…

2010/242: Summer Road Trip, Part 1

We were off to a fairly good start when we left on our 2010 summer vacation at about 3pm on August 6. Unfortunately that didn’t last long when we got stuck in a thunderstorm (the rain came down pretty good!) and had to deal with Friday rush hour. The construction on  Highway 75 didn’t help either, and we didn’t make it quite as far as we’d hoped, and spent the night in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

On August 7th (Saturday) our plan was to make it as far as St. Robert, Missouri, to see Nick, who was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood at the time. He didn’t have a pass until mid afternoon, and we had some time to kill. I looked at the map…. yes, I still like to have a map on hand, even though we have a GPS… and saw that there were some caverns just north of Springfield, Missouri, and we made it there just after lunch.

Fantastic Caverns is the only ride-though cavern in the US and the tour is held in a Jeep-drawn tram. When we walked out of the door to board the tram, I gave the driver our tickets and told him there were four of us…. and he said that was perfect, because he needed four people to sit in the Jeep with him! How lucky is that? It was nice, not having to sit squished in the trailer like everyone else.
Here you can see the entrance to the cave, and our driver walking in, to open the doors to allow the Jeep to drive through.

The cavern was discovered by John Knox and his hunting dog in 1862. Knox did not want the cave to be exploited (as a possible source of saltpeter) by the Union or Confederate governments, so he kept the cave’s existence quiet. It wasn’t until five years later, on February 27, 1867 that the first exploration took place.

Riding wasn’t even an option back in 1867, when the first known explorers visited Fantastic Caverns. They were 12 women who, equipped with ropes and ladders, ventured inside to answer the owner’s advertisement for cave explorers. The names of the 12 women still remain on a cave wall today.

Humans have never inhabited these cavers; however, a variety of animals do find a home here. The grotto salamander, the cave crayfish and the rare, blind Ozark cavefish can all be fund dwelling in Fantastic Caverns. Clean, unpolluted groundwater is vital to these animal and to the cave’s overall health, and water quality is carefully monitored. (We didn’t see any of these animals during our tour)

The temperature inside Fantastic Caverns is about 60°F (15°C) year-round.
Pictured below are two huge stalagmites in the Hall of Giants.

The caverns were used as a speak-easy during the prohibition years and hosted music concerts during the 1950’s and 1960’s. The shows were broad cast on KGBX radio in the 1970’s.

(Excerpts from and

18 responses

  1. dalia66

    that is just so cool!! I want to go!

    30. August, 2010 at 05:53

  2. doreen3boys

    amazing! I’ve always wanted to do a cavern tour, there’s some PA but it never is close enough when we’re there 😦 Really, really cool, love your pics!

    30. August, 2010 at 07:51

  3. Pretty cool! I’m assuming you must have to use flash in a cavern for pictures to come out – what kind of settings did you use here? (Not that I think I’ll be in a cave any time soon!)

    30. August, 2010 at 08:06

  4. Thanks everyone!
    Karen, I didn’t use any flash. I actually thought that they wouldn’t allow flash use, and left the speedlite in the car, and when I found out that they DO allow flash, I didn’t want to use the pop-up.
    Settings… ISO for all of these was 2000.
    First cavern pic was f4.8, 1/40s
    second one f4.8, 1/20s
    third one f5.6, 1/125s
    fourth one f3.5, 1/25s
    and the last one f3.5. 1/20s
    all depended on how well everything was lit.

    30. August, 2010 at 09:31

    • Wow, you do really well hand-holding at those speeds! I think I start to have camera shake under 1/30.

      31. August, 2010 at 14:55

      • Shh… but it helps to have a lens with vibration reduction (or image stabilization for you Canon users 😉 ) I got plenty of blurry ones, too, though, because of the bumpy Jeep ride.

        31. August, 2010 at 15:05

    • Nye

      I never shoot with that high ISO before, the images came out really good.

      I’ve been wanting to visit a cave and we have several caves not too far from us, something to look forward to in the near future. 🙂

      11. September, 2010 at 00:19

  5. WOW – what an amazing place! I like the fact that you got to ride through the caverns and not have to worry about hiking or snaking your way through tight spots. Really beautiful and magical place!

    30. August, 2010 at 09:48

    • Actually, I prefer the ones you walk through 🙂 We went to Meramec Caverns (also in Missouri, but closer to St. Louis) a few years ago, and those were prettier, too.

      31. August, 2010 at 15:07

  6. Wow, that looks like quite the place… It’s been so many years since I visited anywhere like this… Great shots DC..

    30. August, 2010 at 15:05

  7. Amazing place!! I think your photos are giving a very good impression of how it must have been to be there…a bit scary I would say, but the photos are beautiful.

    31. August, 2010 at 14:29

    • Scary only if you ae afraid of the dark. Our tour guide did turn out ALL the lights at some point… talk about pitch black darkness! Then he lit just a candle, and even then you couldn’t see much.

      31. August, 2010 at 15:09

  8. What a fantastic journey through those caverns ! Quite an experience. Your photos convey so well the mood of the place, its various textures and forms. Well done and thank you.

    5. September, 2010 at 07:42

  9. You were in my neck of the woods! I’ve never been inside the caverns… I have a slight problem with being somewhere that I can see the door. : ) You view is spectacular.

    5. September, 2010 at 10:56

    • Not just your neck of the woods… we were practically in your neighborhood towards the end of our trip.

      6. September, 2010 at 06:24

  10. I love caverns and their fascinating mysterious underground world of ancient “sculptures” , so I enjoyed your tour through Fantastic Caverns!

    6. September, 2010 at 06:31

  11. I like the kind of cavern I can peer into while planted firmly outside. These are enticing photos, but I think I can live with seeing the place through your eyes!

    10. September, 2010 at 08:03

  12. I was impressed that you were able to take this quality of photos in a cavern. I remember visiting caverns like these as a child…you brought back lots of good memories. Thank you!

    11. September, 2010 at 18:46

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