Monday, March 6, 2017


Today's post of "Off the beaten path" will highlight a spot a lot closer to home. One the best places for camping and outdoor recreation in Missouri is Meramec State Park. Located about 3 hours from Webb City off I-44, Meramec is a sprawling 7,000 acre park offering plenty of activities to is guests. Campers can find spots along the clear waters of the Meramec river running beneath towering limestone bluffs. There is plenty of great fishing and swimming along the river, and you can paddle along the waters in a canoe or kayak.

 If hiking is your thing, there are over 13 miles or wilderness trails available. The wilderness trail is an 8 mile loop with primitive camping spots along the route. If you're not a camper, there are furnished cabins and a hotel available to guests.

   The highlight of the park is the over 40 mapped caves located on it's grounds. The biggest and best of these is Fisher Cave. For a small fee,  you can take a guided 1 hour tour through part of the cave. With the summertime temps in the mid 90's, I decided to bite the bullet and take my 4 and 7 year old sons into the cave which has 50 degree year round temps. I had 2 main worries before entering the cave 1) there are no lights inside the cave whatsoever, and you travel along using flashlights provided by your guide 2) 4 and 7 year old boys aren't known for efficiently managing themselves should the need for a "potty break" arise. My main concern was getting deep into the inside of the cave, watching my 7 year old freak out when he dropped his flashlight rendering it useless, while shifting my light over the corner to witness my 4 year old taking a pee break on a stalagmite.

   Luckily, none of that happened. My boys were champs. They bravely handled the dark cave and stayed calm. In actuality, due to the tight and cramped nature of caves, little kids are some of the best caving partners to have. They can walk upright while adults have to waddle and crawl through low passageways. Some of the highlights of the hike were finding cave salamanders hunting for bugs along streams. Our guide also pointed to ancient scrapes made along the walls by bears who used to hibernate in the cave hundreds of year ago. Sadly, there was rampant evidence of damage done by humans. Many stalactites and stalagmites were visibly broken. In one section of the cave, graffiti

from the early 1900's was still plainly visible. People would journey into the cave and write their names and dates along the walls.

I definitely recommend checking out Meramec if you are looking for a fun and inexpensive family getaway .

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