Smallin Civil War Cave worth a visit

Wes Franklin

To figuratively venture a little farther out than I normally do here, have you ever visited the Smallin Civil War Cave near Ozark, Mo?

If not, it’s certainly worth a visit, and you can bring the entire family - even grandma and grandpa.

It’s a show cave, and one that is very accessible to people of all physical conditions - including people with disabilities. This is because the one-hour, half-mile, guided walking tour is via a concrete walkway, wide enough for wheel chairs and scooters, with a handrail. There are no stairs and just a few gentle ramps.

The staff is very friendly and knowledgable about the history of the cave and you’ll hear some entertaining stories. It is also kid-friendly with some hands on activities available, such as a fossil finding station.

Now, there is also what they call a “wild tour”, which is available by reservation. This is for people who want a bit more of a caving experience. It takes you to places in the cave that the other tour doesn’t, and there is no concrete walkway. In fact, helmets and headlamps are required, which you can rent there, or bring your own. There is also a 12 year old minimum age requirement and kids younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

What I like about Smallin’ Cave is the fact they have special tours depending on the time of year. They have a lantern tour in the fall and a winter solstice tour in the winter, for instance. Each tour focuses on a different aspect of the cave, so you can catch something different every time.

Henry Schoolcraft wrote about the cave in 1818, following his travels to the then very sparsely settled reaches of the Missouri Ozarks. He described it a “secret of the great works of nature.” The mouth of the cave is 55 feet tall and 100 feet wide.

It is believed the Osage people used the cave during the gathering and harvesting season, and likely other tribes before them. There is a petroglyph, which is a rock carving/painting, of the sun there. The cave may have been used for sacred ceremonies.

It is said that soldiers utilized the cave during the War Between the States, and artifacts, including dropped bullets, have been found nearby.

The cave itself is named for the Smallin family, who settled there in 1852, and for its Civil War history.

You’ll hear all these stories and lots more when you visit!

To learn more, go to their website at smallincave.com or call 417-551-4545.