Exploring Bridal Cave Missouri with kids

Missouri is well known for its caves, and the Lake of the Ozarks, an hour south of the state capital, boasts several that are open to the public. Of these, the most well-known is Bridal Cave, which lies beneath Thunder Mountain near Camdenton, Missouri.

Bridal Cave got its name from a legendary Native American couple who got married in one of its front “rooms.” It has hosted over three thousand weddings since. But you don’t have to be getting married to visit. In fact, it’s a great place to introduce kids to the beauty of the underground world.

bridal-cave

Before you go:

If you can, let your kids explore the “Kids Only” pages on Bridal Cave’s website, which offer educational materials and a couple of activities. Also, plan to pack a picnic lunch. The cave and park are well off the beaten path, and it’s worth sticking around to climb the fire tower and explore the nature trail on Thunder Mountain.

At the cave:

Carved millions of years ago by an ancient river, Bridal Cave has been slowly re-filling itself ever since. As water seeps through the layers of limestone, it drips to the floor, leaving minuscule deposits behind and building any number of formations: soda straws, stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, bacon strips, and more. The limestone formations are tinted white, reddish, black, and even green by trace amounts of minerals. In the deepest part of the cave that is open to the public, you’ll look down on a lake so blue and clear, you can see a mysterious wooden object on its bottom, twenty feet below the surface. Our guide told us that a diver was sent down once to carbon date it, but the wood disintegrated as soon as it was touched, so they decided to leave it a mystery.

We’ve taken a number of cave tours, and this one was one of the better ones. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and the tour sizes wasn’t too big, so we didn’t feel rushed going through the cave. It’s also not as tight as some we’ve visited. Only one place, the “lemon squeezer,” gets small, and even then there was enough open space around the columns on either side to prevent my claustrophobic family member from getting anxious.

bridal-cave

However, be aware that Bridal Cave is not wheelchair/stroller accessible. There are stairs and uneven surfaces to navigate within the passages.

Shopping:

Bridal Cave has two gift shops. The lower one, adjacent to the cave entrance, is stocked with traditional gift shop fare. But the upper shop, Thunder Mountain Mining Company, is focused on geology. You can browse slices of agate, choose a mineral pendant off a tree, or even crush your own geode. You can even buy bags of debris for “panning” in the sluices outside the store.

Popcorn, candy and bottled drinks are available on site, but no formal dining. Pack your lunch and use the picnic tables on the hill above the cave for a peaceful meal.

Hours:

The cave opens at 9 a.m. daily, with a few holiday exceptions. Tours run every few minutes and last about an hour. Come early to beat the crowds in the rock store; by noon in the summer it was pretty busy, even on a Monday. The cave is open until 6 p.m. during the summer, 5 during the transitional seasons, and 4 in the heart of the winter. This can help you stay active when the weather is too hot, cold, or stormy to enjoy outdoor activities.

Location & Admission:

Bridal Cave and Thunder Mountain Park is off Highway 5, two miles south of Camdenton, Missouri, on the shore of the Lake of the Ozarks. There is access by boat as well as by road. Admission is $18 for ages 13+; $9 for ages 5-12. Group “Discovery” tours, offering access to a second cave and an interpretive walk through the park, are available to educational groups.

Our family visited Bridal Cave as guests of  the Tri-County Lodging Association’s Lake of the Ozarks Hospitality Bank

About the author

Kathleen Basi Freelance writer Kathleen Basi has lived her entire life in "flyover country," but she's an old pro at road trips, having taken the first of many extended driving vacations at the tender age of five. She's a huge proponent of letting kids see and experience the space between "here" and "there." Find her at http://kathleenbasi.com/blog/.

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