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Tunnels and Caves

posted Oct 19, 2018, 4:11 PM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 30, 2018, 4:11 PM ]
Thursday, we made the short drive to Bennett Spring State Park.  There were a good number of people here, but they were all fishing.  Parking at the trailhead for Natural Tunnel Trail, there was no one else here so it would be a nice quiet hike.  Heading down the trail, it was a scenic stretch of woods along a mostly dry creek bed.  Like just about everywhere in Missouri, there were lots of rocky outcrops, bluffs and small caves along the trail.

At one spot, there was a really huge tree.  In just over three miles, we came to the tunnel.

At almost 300 feet long and S-shaped, it was pretty dark in the middle.  The other side had some broken concrete slabs; not sure what they were for.

We explored the tunnel and got some pictures before making our way back.

Sandy spotted some pretty Pennsylvania smartweed blooming in an open area.

Around half way back was a split and we made a partial loop to return to the parking area.  This part of the trail was on the ridge above where we had hiked earlier.  I found some cute little mushrooms growing along the trail.

After about 7 miles, we made it back to the parking area.  Before leaving the park, we parked at Bennett Spring to hike the short Spring Trail.  The other side of the river was crowded with people fishing, but it was just us over here.

There were a lot of fish in the creek.  I think the fish understood that fishing was prohibited on this side of the river as they seemed to be congregating on this side of the river.

Following it downstream, there were some nice cascades.

I also spotted some beautyberry blooming along the bank.

It was about a half mile to the other end where we turned around.  We spotted a plains garter snake on the hike back.

Before leaving, I went down to the concrete bridge for a view of Bennett Spring itself.

From here we drove north to Lake of the Ozarks to Bridal Cave, near Camdenton.  After paying admission, we started our tour with Sarah who was a really great guide.  One of the first sights was the Pipe Organ, a beautiful cluster of stalactites.

In the past, people would bang on them to echo throughout the cave, but this was damaging them so now it was prohibited.  The cave was just beautiful.

They claim that there are more cave formations in this cave than any other in the United States and I'd believe it.

Further on, we saw the Kissing Camels, a reference to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

The rocks weren't yet touching, but in a few centuries, they'll connect and complete the kiss.  We continued on through the cave.

Another interesting stalagmite was the totem pole.

Another room had a large number of soda straws - thin cylindrical stalactites that resemble drinking straws.

Frozen Niagara was another gorgeous formation that resembled a frozen waterfall.

There was really no shortage of spectacular scenery in this cave.

And access was easy with concrete walkways, handrails and lighting.

It's hard to imagine what this was like to explore before all the amenities.  As we visited each room, there were more amazing sites.

At the end of the cave was Mystery Pool, a deep subterranean pool that mysteriously had a ladder in it.  It's not clear how that got in here.

This was our turnaround point, but before we headed back, Sarah offered to turn off all the lights so we could experience a few moments of absolute darkness.  Fortunately, she turned them back on for the walk out.  Before leaving, Sandy bought a salt lamp from the gift shop.  It was still too early to check in, so we headed to Marty Byrde's for dinner and drinks.

The bar is themed from the show Netflix show Ozark.  We started watching it since we were planning to come out here, so we had to stop by and the food and drinks were pretty good.  Then we headed to the Garden House B&B to check in.  It was a beautiful place to stay, right on the lake.  After getting checked in, we went down to the dock to watch the beautiful sunset over the lake.

It was very relaxing out on the dock and we enjoyed sitting out here into the evening.

Then we hit the hot tub in our room before going to bed.