A Fun Tour of Bridal Cave in Missouri

On a fun golfing vacation to Lake of the Ozarks, we were told several times that we should save some time for a tour of Bridal Cave in Camdenton, MO.  So, one afternoon we scheduled a lighted tour and we loved it. 

Bridal Cave in Missouri

View of Lake of the OzarksAs soon as we arrived, we were impressed – Bridal Cave sits on a bluff around 100 feet above one of the many arms along the 1150 miles of shoreline of beautiful Lake of the Ozarks.  The view was stunning and hard to walk away from.  The viewing area is also home to a sluicing box for gemstone mining where you pan for semi-precious minerals and you get to keep all the treasures you find. When I heard that I was tempted to give it a try and see if I could pan enough to pay for our vacation, but our cave tour was starting. 

Our tour guideSoon after we arrived, we were warmly greeted by our tour guide. Bridal Cave which is rated as one of the most scenic caves in America!   Bridal Cave is relatively small compared to other caverns but it’s the 3rd most speleothem decorated cave in the US – Luray Caverns in Virginia is #1.  According to our guide, millions of years of struggle between water and rock have created Bridal Cave which has more onyx formations than any other known cave or cavern. As early as 8,000 BC, Native Americans were using caves in the area for shelter, and more than likely Bridal Cave was one of those used. After decades of primitive exploration, this astounding natural treasure was officially protected in 1948 for generations to come. Two years of painstaking development were needed to widen the opening to the cave and lay the concrete path to make the cave suitable for public tours.

Bridal Cave The tour starts a few feet from the entrance in what is called the “wedding room.”  An old folk tale states that in the 1800s, Conwee, the son of an Osage chief, was infatuated with Wasena, the daughter of a rival Osage chief, and he captured her and her companion and brought them to the present-day Bridal Cave.  She escaped the cave and rather than marry someone she did not love, she jumped to her death at a nearby three-hundred-foot cliff overlooking the Niangua River. Today, locals still refer to the place as Lover’s Leap. Her companion then later married Conwee's brother in the cave and since then over 3,775 weddings and renewals have been held in Bridal Cave.

Bridal CaveWe continued our tour for an hour on a concrete pathway for less than a mile weaving in and out of some large cavern rooms and through some relatively tight and narrow passageways in the cave’s 60-degree environment – it was 90 and humid outside! On our one-hour tour, we made several stops where our tour guide (who was excellent) pointed out beautiful formations and provided lots of interesting information, some of which included:

  • The first organized exploration of portions of Bridal Cave was in 1856
  • It took six months to prepare for the opening of the cave entrance in 1948, including building a road from the main highway
  • In 1981 divers got a chance to explore the lake inside of the cave and named it Mystery Lake because they couldn’t find the source (there is only one entrance into the cave) or understand how debris made its way into the bottom of the lake

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  • Giant columns, delicate soda straws and massive draperies abound throughout the cave
  • One inch of stalactite growth (which grow down from the ceiling) takes over 100 years and eventually the stalactites will join with the stalagmites (which grow up from the ground). The stalagmites are formed from calcium salt deposits from water that drips from the stalactites above.
  • The staff collects all of the money thrown into the crystal clear water of the wishing well and donates it to charity

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  • Bridal Cave is 200 feet below the surface of Thunder Mountain and is around 2.4 million years old
  • Ongoing exploration of this massive cavern recently uncovered chambers of incomparable beauty including the crystal-clear waters of Mystery Lake

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We enjoyed our fun and informative lighted tour of Bridal Cave and have decided that the next time we visit, we'll sign up for the "Lantern Tour." For this 75-minute tour, guests will feel like they're going back 150 years when the first explorers explored the cavern by lantern.

The facilities at Bridal Cave include: The Ozark’s largest lakeside Gift Shop, Lakeside viewing decks overlooking Lake of the Ozarks, public boat docks if you want to arrive by boat, nature trails, picnic areas, snack center, and the Thunder Mountain Mining Company which is  a unique rock and mineral gift shop specializing in beautiful and unusual rocks, minerals, gemstones and educational materials for rock hounds of all ages.

Gift ShopBoat Slips at Bridal CaveGift Shop at Bridal Cave

If you like caves, Missouri is known for its numerous caverns. In fact, there are more than 7,400 recorded caves, including twenty show caves that are open to the public for guided tours. The Lake of the Ozarks area is home to four of those 20 show caves: Bridal Cave, Jacob's Cave, Ozark Caverns and Stark Caverns.

A stop at Bridal Cave is well worth it and fun and easy for all ages. 

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