Mark Twain Cave

McDougal's Cave - McDowell's Cave

Useful Information

Location: Near Hannibal, MO. Highway 79 South, 1,8 km south of Hannibal, MO.
Open: APR to MAY daily 9-18.
JUN to AUG daily 8-20.
SEP to OCT daily 9-18.
NOV to MAR daily 9-16.
Fee: Historic Tour: Adults USD 14, Children (5-12) USD 7.
Groups (20+): Adults USD 9, Children (5-12) USD 6, High School USD 8.
Plus tax. [2006]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave. Louisiana limestone.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=4,538 m.
Guided tours: Historic Tour: D=60 min.
Bibliography: R.C. Bogart (nY): A visit to Mark Twain Cave and Mark Twain County, Hannibal
Mark Twain (1987): Tom Sawyer, Penguin Books, October 1987, 256pp, ISBN: 0140390839. Bookat Amazon .

H Dwight Weaver, Paul A Johnson (1975): Adventures at Mark Twain Cave, the discovery, history and development of the cave. Discovery Enterprises, Missouri, 3rd edition 1975, 64 pp, SB, many photos, survey etc.
Address: Mark Twain Cave, PO Box 913 RR 3, Hannibal, MO 63401, Tel. +1-573-221-1656. Reservations: 1-800-527-0304. 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.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


Known to the Indians for a long time.
Winter 1819 or 1820 discovered by Jack Sims and his brother on a hunt.
184? cave purchased by Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell.
1849 cave locked with a wooden door.
1868 Dr. McDowell died and the cave was purchased by the Fielder and Stilwell families.
1876 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer published.
22-SEP-1879 visited by Jesse James.
1886 opened to the public, Missouri's first show cave. Guide service by John East.
1923 cave purchased by Judge E.T. Cameron.
1939 electric light.


Mark Twain Cave is actually the cave described in Mark Twain's book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, or at least it influenced the cave descriptions very much. In the book Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher get lost in this maze of of corridors. And although the cave has spacious walk-ways and is rather dry and level, one can easily imagine how frightening it may be to get lost with no other light than candles.

Mark Twain is the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clement (*1835-✝1910). In the 1830s the Clemens family moved to Hannibal, Samuel Clement visited the cave many times as a boy. He describes several visits in his autobiography, tells that he scared his mother with bats he brought from the cave. He also tells that Injun Joe really existed.

The story of Injun Joe stealing dead bodies from the cemetery has several parallels to the real Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell. He bought the cave in the 1840s, locked it and made medical experiments and research on human corpses. From today's point of view, this is not so unusual for a surgeon, but at this time the people were disgusted. Especially as he was said to store the corpse of his 14 years old daughter in a glass flask in the cave, a commotion among the locals lead to the removing of the corpse.

During Civil War, Dr. McDowell stockpiled guns and ammunition for the Confederates at his medical college in St. Louis. So rumors of a munitions depot in his cave came up.

Then the cave description in the bestseller The Adventures of Tom Sawyer made the cave famous. The number of people visiting the cave increased continuously. In 1886 John East started a cave guide service. This makes the cave the first show cave of Missouri, and it has been open to the public continuously. The tours were made with lanterns until the cave got electric light in 1939.