Stark Caverns

Fantasy World Caverns - Stark Cave


Useful Information

Location: Eldon, MO
Hwy 54 between Jefferson City and Camdenton, south of Eldon, Cave Dr. exit west, 1.2 km to the cave.
(38.2839911567361, -92.59170053066353)
Open: All year Mon, Sat, Sun 10, 12, 14, 15:30, 17.
Closed Thanksgiving, 25-DEC.
[2021]
Fee: Adults USD 15, Children (13-17) USD 10, Children (5-12) USD 5, Children (0-4) free.
Groups (15+): only after appointment.
[2014]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=14 °C.
Guided tours: L=335 m, D=60 min.
Photography: allowed, no flash
Accessibility: partly
Bibliography:  
Address: Stark Caverns, 125 Cave Dr, Eldon, MO 65026, Tel: +1-573-867-2283. E-mail:
Reservations, Tel: +1-573-369-3306.
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.

History

18?? discovered by Charles Stark.
1859 Charles Stark receives a land patent for 120 acres.
1950 opened as a show cave named Fantasy World Caverns.
1967 human remains discovered while digging a hole for a post near the entrance.
1986 purchased by Curtis Whitman.
2001 closed.
01-MAY-2011 reopened by the same owner.
2017 cave purchased by Jeff and Amy Hargroves, cave renamed Stark Caverns.

Description

Stark Caverns is long known to man, it has a huge portal which has been open for a long time. It was known to the native Indians who used the entrance area and left numerous artifacts. An ancient fire-pit was excavated at the furthest point back in the cave where natural light can be seen. Human remains were discovered in 1967 while digging a hole for a post near the entrance. An archaeologist from the University of Missouri examined the findings and excavated the remains of four Native Americans from the Late Woodland Period (2000 to 1000 B.C.). Animals entered the cave, bears slept inside the cave and left claw marks on the wall.

By the white settlers it was first discovered in the early 1800s and named Stark Cave after its first owner Charles Stark. Actually the land around the cave was owned by two veterans of the war of 1812, William Bunker and James Baldwin who received their land in 1857 as a Military Land Grant. Charles Stark received a land patent for 120 acres in 1859, and he was attracted to the property specifically because of the cave. The neighbours used the cave as a convenient cellar, to store apples and potatoes, and as a shelter for the cattle. Actually almost anything for which a cave was used during the centuries, was done at this cave. It was used as a hideout during the Civil War, it was used by moonshiners, it was used as a dance hall and in the early 1900s a skating rink. There are records of fiddlers and dances, sermons, apple storage, clothes washing and more. During the prohibition era in the early 1900 cave became popular as a moonshine distillery and speakeasy, complete with a dance floor. There was even a trout farm, although we are not sure if it was in the cave lake or in front of the cave. And it had numerous different names: Stark’s Cave, Aurora Cave, Aurora Springs Cave, Miller County Cave and Mammoth Cave of Miller County.

It was developed as a show cave in 1950 by a group of businessmen, led by Floyd Hammitt and opened under the name Stark's Cavern, yet another version. It was since then operated under several names including Enchanted Caverns and Fantasy World Caverns. The show cave was closed to the public in 2001, but it was reopened ten years later in 2011 by the same owner, which is rather uncommon. We guess there were personal reasons for the closing. Or probably it was reopened to sell it more profitably. And it was soon sold to Jeff and Amy Hargroves in 2017. They renamed the cave finally into its original show cave name Stark Caverns.

The fossil cave has three levels. In the entrance is a large lake, followed by a canyon passage with two waterfalls. There are huge chambers with stalactites and stalagmites. The cave tours follow a 335 m long paved trail inside the cave, which is 90% handicapped accessible.

The cave is notable for formations like soda straws, flow stone, stalactites, stalagmites, cave coral, and helictites. According to an older description, obviously by a former operator, they not only have helectites, they also have helegmites. This is an old term which was created by combining hele with -mites and -tites from the terms stalactites and stalagmites. The basic idea was that the first grow on the ceiling and the second on the floor. Actually a stupid idea, as helictites actually grow every where and always defy gravity. We really enjoyed the typo (hele instead of heli) though.

Quite interesting are stromatolites in the cave walls. This are fossils created by algae growing in the tidal area. They were the first who developed photosynthesis and produced oxygen from carbon dioxide. They also form characteristic fossils.