The entrance to the cave spans 15 x 40 feet. Once you step inside guides will take you on a 3/4 mile walk through areas where you'll learn all about the natural wonder — from early inhabitants to the one-of-a-kind formations.
You will hear a mix of folklore and history on a one-hour guided tour at the re-opened Stark Caverns, located just outside of Eldon. Once a major tourist attraction, Stark Caverns is operating under new ownership and they have plans to make a big comeback.
Since purchasing the cave in March 2017, Amy and Jeff Hargroves have been working to reopen the cave, which had closed last year under a different name when the former owner passed away. Jeff had worked at the cave in the 80s while in high school. He had always wanted to own a cave so when the opportunity became available for him to purchase it, they did.
The cave originally opened as a tourist attraction in 1950 under the name Stark Caverns. The name Stark comes from the landowners who had originally owned the property. Over the years it had been used to shelter cattle, store food, make moonshine and of course housed Native American Indians and wildlife.
Amy, who has a background in corporate social responsibility, has a passion to make sure the cave is around for generations to come, through conservation efforts and working with locals to understand the history.
Located just seven minutes east of Bagnell Dam, the cave re-opened July 22. Tours are given on a first-come, first-served basis. RVs, buses and large groups are welcome.
The entrance to the cave spans 15 x 40 feet. Once you step inside guides will take you on a 3/4 mile walk through areas where you’ll learn all about the natural wonder — from early inhabitants to the one-of-a-kind formations. The pathway is paved and spacious.
Three creeks feed into areas of the cave, creating pools of water. Depending on the amount of rainfall, you might come at a time where you can see cave waterfalls. One of the most interesting parts is an area where four Indian skeletons are on display. In 1967 crews discovered the remains when digging about 14 inches into the ground near the entrance of the cave.
The University of Missouri oversaw the removal of the remains, and provided some valuable information. A baby (who likely died of a bone disease), a 14-year old woman (believed to be its mother) and an Indian Chief with a sordid past are among the skeletal remains on display.
Currently they are working on building a visitors’ center and educational center, as well as incorporating areas with picnic tables and firepits. Several people, including local historian Dwight Weaver, are helping to pull together photographs and artifacts to be included in the displays. Even members of the local Stark family have items that will be donated. Plans are to add a native wildflower and butterfly garden.
Check back for special events being held at the cave. Make sure to stop by the gift shop at the end of the tour.