Devil's Icebox Cave

Useful Information

Location: Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, 5901 South Hwy. 163, Columbia, MO 65203.
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, 11 km south of Columbia, Boone County. Follow U.S. Highway 63 south, turn right on Rd 163 west towards Pierpoint to the park. Signposted.
(38.8699822, -92.3267152)
Open: Park: all year daily sunrise to sunset.
Fee: D-level tour: USD 40.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SpeleologyRiver cave BiologyWhite-nose Syndrome
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=10,758 m, VR=0 m.
Guided tours: D=6-10 h.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Devil's Icebox, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, 5901 South Hwy. 163, Columbia, MO 65203, Tel: +1-573-449-7402. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1834 first paper mill west of the Mississippi River established.
1847 whiskey distillery opened.
1924 cave first explored by Ben M. Yates and his sons with a john-long boat.
1961 nine-year-old Carol Stoerker struck by a car and killed.
1967 state park established.
2006 access to the cave restricted.
2010 Devil’s Icebox Cave closed due to white nose syndrome.


Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is a fine example for a karst area, located south of Columbia, Missouri. The main sight is the Devil's Icebox Boardwalk, an 800 m long trail leading to many karst features of the park. This includes the Rock Bridge, which gave the park its name, Connor's Cave, a karst spring, and thousands of dolines. A river exits Devil’s Icebox Cave and flows through the Rock Bridge. The second most interesting trail is the Sinkhole Trail, a loop which starts at the same parking lot. The park has a total of 44 km of trail trails.

In the 19th century, the water of the river was used by the settlers as a source of power. They built a stone dam at the Rock Bridge to operate a gristmill. The first paper mill west of the Mississippi River was established in 1834, and a whiskey distillery was established in 1847. They were the basis of a small town. Soon a blacksmith shop, a store, and several homes followed, the village was named Rockbridge Mills. Later it was renamed Pierpont, which is actually just the French translation. The spectacular caves and dolines made the place quite popular, so it was visited by the locals, it was especially popular during hot dummer days due to its cool air. Despite being private ground, it was not used for farming and was more or less semi-public for more than a century. The popular area became a gathering place for the country folk from the surrounding villages. They organized plays, political rallies, dances and family gatherings.

The park is the result of a result of a car accident. In 1961, the 9-year-old Carol Louise Stoerker, daughter of a professor at the University of Missouri, was killed in a car accident. So her father had the idea to establish a park where children could run and play in safety. His work resulted in a community movement to preserve the area permanently for public use. In 1967, the state park was established.

Devil's Icebox Cave is a wild cave, which was visited on cave trekking tours guided by park rangers. There were tours of four different difficulty levels offered, from level A to D, where level A did not include crawling, and D required a proof of caving abilities and excellent physical condition. All tours included a 45-minutes long briefing about safety issues and equipment, and a 400 m walk to the cave entrance, where a canoe has to be carried. The cave tours include stooping, crawling, climbing and of course wading in cold water. Devil's Icebox Cave has almost 11 kilometers of passages, many are water filled. The first 800 m of the entrance passage is a water passage which was done by boat. The difficulties were the Low Spot and several shallows, where the canoe had to be carried by the cavers. The low spot is a 3-m long section where the ceiling comes down to the water surface and participants have to lye flat in their canoe to fit through.

The cave has a spacious main passage, and despite being a river cave it is rather easy to visit. The first exploration by Ben M. Yates and his sons with a john-long boat was in 1924. They claimed to have explored 5 miles of passage. It became a popular cave tour and was visited by many spelunbkers, mainly college students from around Columbia, Missouri.

Access into Devil’s Icebox was restricted in 2006, after white nose syndrome was discovered. This is a little weird as the WNS started in New York State and it took several years to spread. In 2010 the cave was completely closed, nevertheless the local bats were infected in 2013. The tours were never restarted, the cave is still closed. It seems in later years they realized that the protection of the rare and often endemic cave animals was more important. Today there are trails through several small caves and passages, including a 35 m long passage leading to the entrance doline of Devil's Icebox Cave and through Connor's Cave. These tours can be done self-guided.