Thursday, July 14, 2016

Talking Rock Caverns

During our recent trip to Branson, Missouri, my family took a short drive outside of town to visit Talking Rocks Cavern.

It's around a half-hour drive outside of Branson to get to Talking Rocks Cavern, but you don't have to worry too much about getting lost. There are lots of signs along the way, mostly featuring a very happy lizard (probably a salamander, since they have those in caves) with a camera. The route goes right past Silver Dollar City, the large theme park outside of Branson, so you can zoom past the long lines of cars waiting to enter there and feel good about your choice of destination.
The outdoor Speleo Box.
Before we even entered the building above the cave, we discovered the Speleo Box, a big wooden structure that simulates crawling through a cavern. There are actually two of them, one inside the gift shop, and one out in front. The sign on it recommends that no one larger than 6'2" or 240 pounds try it out. My brother isn't too far shy of that, but he tried it anyway and was able to make it through. I didn't feel like contorting myself quite that much, and considering how much my brother complained about soreness later on, it was probably a wise decision. Lots of the many kids running around had a great time crawling through, though, without consequences on old bones and muscles.

My niece Frances, on her way out of the Speleo Box.
The cavern itself is around 100 feet deep, with just one human-sized opening at the top. It's quite damp, with a pool at the bottom, and there are some small drainage holes which keeps it from flooding (except in really heavy rains, which take some time to drain out). You walk down some fairly steep steps until you're fairly near the bottom, just above that muddy pool. It's not a difficult climb, but you definitely want to be careful and take it slow to avoid slipping. Our guide told us that the steps were built by lowering cement down one bucket at a time through that top opening - not a quick or easy task.
The "angel" formation in the cave...from the right angle it looks like a tall thin person with wings.
Speaking of our guide (whose name was David), he (and all the others working there) were knowledgeable and friendly. My nieces were particularly curious about just about everything in the cave, and he was very patient answering their questions. In between their interruptions, he told us some of the history behind the discovery of the cave and how the various owners over the years had made use of it as an attraction.
More cave formations.
None of the rocks in the cavern actually talk, although previous owners of the cavern thought it would be a great idea to hide speakers in the cave and use them to startle visitors during the tour. This went over about as well as you'd expect, and the whole talking rock idea was abandoned. The current owners opted to avoid frightening people and instead play some music with a bit of a light show for the tour groups, of which I approve.
Our family at the bottom of the cave.
In addition to the cave itself, visitors can explore a nature trail that's about a mile long. There's a few interesting-looking rock formations along the way, and a wooden lookout tower that commands a nice view of the valley where Talking Rocks is located. It mostly goes through fairly thick woods, so I imagine that some wildlife moves through there as well, although I didn't notice anything beyond insects.
View from the lookout tour on the nature trail.
All told, we probably spent 3-4 hours at the Talking Rocks Cavern, and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. Well worth the visit if you're in the area.

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