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SPRINGFIELD – With temperatures hitting the century mark, there are a few traditional places people visit to cool off. Springs, rivers and caves are abundant in the Ozarks and all provide respite from the overwhelming heat. Using caves and springs for keeping people and goods cool has always been a part of life in the Missouri Ozarks. From storing goods in the spring house or swimming in the cool waters of a spring-fed stream, the natural attractions that are found in the Ozarks are a special resource for those who live or visit.
Caves, in particular, have a long history with the never-changing underground environment. Inside Fantastic Caverns, just northwest of Springfield, the temperature stays a comfortable 60 degrees throughout the year. Fantastic Caverns was used as a music theatre during the days of the Farm-A-Rama radio shows in the 1960s. During this same time, air from the cave was used to cool the ticket office and gift shop. Several years later, the cave’s Auditorium Room was again used as a theatre when the Springfield Regional Opera and Springfield Symphony performed “Opera In A Cave” during the early 1980s.
Cave tours are done by a Jeep-drawn tram, making it accessible for people with disabilities, children and even pets.
Smallin Civil War Cave, just south of Springfield, also provides relief from the heat. The first documented cave in the Ozarks, it was home to Osage Native Americans and it is likely the Cherokee took shelter there. Guests learn about the history, folklore, geology and biology of the cave during tours.
Right inside the city is Giboney Cave at Doling Park. This cave is at the site of land that was homesteaded by Alexander Giboney in 1842 and provided the family with water from its spring and a cool cellar for food storage. The next tour is available Aug. 26. Learn more at www.ParkBoard.org/Outdoor.
Also near Springfield is Talking Rocks Cavern at Reeds Spring and Marvel Cave at Silver Dollar City.
Missouri, known as “The Cave State,” is home to more than 6,500 caves and countless springs. As the heat of summer continues, remember these sometimes unseen resources and make your summer a cool one. Learn more at www.MissouriCaves.com.