Bluff Dweller's Cave and Browning Museum

Useful Information

Location: 3,2km South of Noel, Missouri on Hwy. 59
Open: Mar-Nov daily 8-18, winter schedules vary.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave St. Joe Limestone, Mississippian, Paleozoic Era. SubterraneaCave and Karst Museum
Light: electric
Dimension: L=1,219m, T=13°C
Guided tours: L=600m, D=60min.
Bibliography: Mark R. Harrington (192?): The Ozark Bluff-Dwellers, Indian Notes and Mongraphs, Volume 12. Reprint 2008
Address: Bluff Dweller's Cave, Rt 2 Box 230, Noel, MO 64854, Tel. +1-417-475-3666
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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1925 first explored by the owner Arthur Browning, and two surveyors with the highway department, Bob Ford and Bryan Gilmore.
1927 opened to the public.


Bluff Dweller's Cave is located at the foot of Exit Cliff, off Highway 59, one kilometer south of Noel, Missouri. The present entrance of was completely concealed by a land slide in 1925, when the cave was re-discovered. During the development the debris was removed, but during the works flecks of charcoal were noticed. This coal from fire places was the first sign of a huge number of human remains found during the deveolpment. The finds include human bones, arrows, and stone implements, which are today exhibited in the Browning Museum at the cave entrance. At the same time the archaeologist Mark R. Harrington excavated numerous shelters in this area which are locally called bluffs. He discovered human remains which were up to 7,000 years old, a culture which he called Bluff-Dwellers. He also named a book he published about two years of excavation The Ozark Bluff-Dwellers. This name was actually en-vogue at this time and so the cave was named Bluff Dwellers' Cave.

The Browning Museum was named after Arthur Browning, the owner of the ground and the first explorer of the cave. Its collections include 700 locally found arrowheads and other chipped artifacts. The artifacts, most of them found during the cave development, were dated to be up to 7,000 years old. There are also a mineral collection and a fossil collection, with some 500 specimens from all around the world. And finally there is a collection of local antiques, mostly from the 19th century.

The cave was formed during the active phase of the cave, when the ground water table was at the height of the cave, and great amounts of water were flowing through the cave. The impressive river passages of the cave were formed. The Ozark uplift continued and so the cave became dry. The formation of speleothems started, and the cave was accesible to prehistoric man. Later, continuing erosion caused the collapse of the entrance section.

The cave has several nice speleothems, like cave corals, lily pads, and popcorn. The most outstanding formation is the dam or rim of an rimstone pool which is 2.5cm thick, 30cm high and almost 23m meters long.

The cave is home to several troglobionts, like the albino cave crayfish and and the grotto slalamander. Other cave visitors are cave salamander, dark-sided salamander, western slimy salamander, and eastern pipistrelle bat.