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Rural Missouri Magazine


Beauty beneath the surface
Onondaga State Park

by Jeff Joiner

Onondaga Cave State Park near Leasburg offers Missourian's a chance to experience the state's underground wonders.

With more than 5,000 known caves, there's little wonder Missouri boasts so many commercial show caves with colorful histories like Fantastic Caverns near Springfield, Marvel Cave in Silver Dollar City and Meramec Caverns near Stanton.

Another former show cave is now the centerpiece of a state park. Onondaga Cave, first toured by the public in 1897, became the property of cave showman Lester Dill. Dill wanted to see the Cave preserved and in 1982, two years after his death, Onondaga Cave State Park was dedicated.

The cave, located along Interstate 44 near Leasburg, was at the heart of a landmark Missouri Supreme Court case. In the 1920s two different land owners claimed different parts of the cave and even blocked cave passages with barbed-wire fences. Their lawsuit went to the state's highest court which that property lines actually extend below ground.

From March through October park naturalists conduct cave tours, which begin in a visitor's center and museum at the cave entrance. Other features of the 1,300-acre park include Onondaga Spring). The park's campground facilities are closed until 2003 for renovations.

For information about the cave or park call (573) 245-6600 or (573) 245-6576 or visit the park's web site at www.mostateparks.com/onondaga.htm.

 

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