June 2014

Smallin Cave has partnered with the MSU archaeology department, led by Jack Ray, for a three week long dig in Smallin Cave.The dig began June 10th. Jack Ray and his students have found historic and prehistoric artifacts in the cave dating (so far) back to over 7,000 years old. Professor Ray has promised to detail his findings after the dig, and we are excited to share this information with everyone! In the meantime, the local media has filmed the progress of the dig as of June 18th. Links to these stories by KY3 and Kolr 10 are below.

Keep watching our website and facebook for more information. We will update as soon as we have more information to share! If you would like to see the dig in progress, we are open for tours 7 days a week. The dig will be ongoing until June 26th.

February 2014

We are hiring! If you are interested in a part-time cave guide position, please fill out this application. Applications can be turned in by email
or in person at the Smallin Cave Visitor's Center.

(Left) The aftermath of the drought over the last several years. Owner Kevin and grandson standing on a Chinkapin Oak tree that we lost this year.



August 2013




We have a lot of exciting things in the works for this fall! Several months ago, Eric Fuller (an experienced archaeologist and graduate of Washington University in Anthropology) came to work at Smallin Cave as our Staff Archaeologist. Fuller's extensive experience on Native American dig sites and Native American culture makes him a great asset to the entire Ozark area! Fuller will be giving interperative "Forest of the Osage" Tours at Smallin Cave this fall. Visit the Events page for more information. Event dates will be Saturday, September 21st at 10:00am and Saturday, October 5th at 10:00am. (Flier is shown to the right) >>








Owner Wanetta Bright has finished "Smallin Cave: The Center of Ozarks Culture and History". (Pictured to the left)

Bright says of the book, "The Book, "Smallin Civil War Cave, The Center of Ozarks Culture and History," is a neat combination of geology, natural history, history of pioneer usage (much of it from first hand accounts of some early local families), a painstakingly researched section on the Civil War (and its aftermath) in this area, as well as some recent history and continuing research at the cave. If you love the cave tour, you would LOVE the's everything you ever wanted to know about Smallin Cave, but couldn't fit into a one hour tour!"

Copies are available in the Smallin Civil War Cave visitor's center for $10.95 each.





It is almost our favorite time of year - fall! We will be offering Civil War Lantern tours late September - mid November and Civil War Christmas tours will be held after Thanksgiving - New Years Eve. This is a great date night, holiday work event, or family tradition. Reservations are required. Visit the events page for more information.


December 2012

We are excited to announce that Wanetta Bright, owner and tour guide at Smallin Civil War Cave, is a few short months away from completing her book over Smallin Cave. It is set to release in 2013. Watch and our facebook for the official release date. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter:

"It was a wintery morning, December 31st, 1818. The morning stillness was broken by the occasional songbird, fluffed and animated, chirping from the grey branches o

f tall sycamores and oak trees, and the musical trickle of an ice-cold stream flowing through the bottom of the deep gorge. The morning sky was typical of late December; cloudy and grey. A chilly winter wind whistling softly but steadily through the trees rattled the few remaining dry leaves, and gave the promise of a coming storm.
From the top of a sycamore, the morning peace was shattered as a crow squawked and flew, sounding the alert as four men walked on foot up the narrow valley beside the stream. The two men at the front were woodsmen, leather-faced and wiry; with the single-minded confidence possessed only by individuals who would dare to inhabit wild country such as this. The two men behind had a different appearance. They looked haggard and drawn, and oddly out of place. The man at the back of the group lagged behind just a bit, and the reason was apparent: he was absorbing everything around him as he went, occasionally scratching notes and sketches for himself along the way. His fair, ruddy cheeks and studious round spectacles betrayed him for who he was; an educated intellectual from “back east”. This young man, 25 year old Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, was in the process of making history. Accompanied by his associate, Levi Pettibone, Schoolcraft undertook the daunting and dangerous task of exploring and writing about the rugged Ozark Mountains, added to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase."

Taken from Chapter 1
All rights belong to Wanetta Bright and Smallin Civil War Cave
Copyright 2012

(Above) - Wanetta Bright in Smallin Cave, just beyond the walkways

(Below) - Smallin Cave's enormous entrance allows for ice formations during particularly cold, wet days in the winter months.



September 2012 Updates

Civil War Lantern Tours begin Saturday, October 6th! We are excited to start our lantern tours for the 2012 fall. Join us around the campfire this fall with your loved ones as we recount the times of Southern Belles, Baldknobbers, and the Civil War.

Call for reservations at 417-551-4545
$5 deposit per person is required


Below are the Civil War Lantern Tour and Civil War Christmas Tour dates and times:

October 6 at 7:00pm
October 13 at 7:00pm
October 20 at 7:00pm
October 27 at 7:00pm
November 3 at 7:00pm
November 10 at 7:00pm
November 17 at 7:00pm

November 24 at 7:00pm
December 1 at 7:00pm
December 8 at 7:00pm
December 15 at 7:00pm
December 22 at 7:00pm
December 29 at 7:00pm



June 2012 Update

Early this summer, we found a couple of interesting and rare fossils in our cave while exploring.
Below is the story we released to the media a few weeks ago:

OZARK — A recent discovery at Smallin Cave in Ozark could change what scientists know about life in the ancient oceans that once covered this part of the planet. The discovery of an extinct shark’s spine fossilized in the limestone of the cave has caught the surprise and interest of scientists.

The shark spine belongs to an extinct group of fish called Bradyodonts. While basic information is known about the Bradyodont, they are a fairly mysterious creature because scientists haven’t done much research on them in the past hundred years. The fossil of the Bradyodont in Smallin Cave might belong to a new species, according to Matt Forir of Missouri Institute of Natural Science.

The majority of research on the Bradyodont was done more than a hundred years ago, and journal articles and publications containing information about the Bradyodont are relatively rare. This makes the identification of the species challenging. Forir has been reading papers dating back to the late 19th century to gain some insight.

On an evening of exploration, Smallin Cave owner Kevin Bright and Forir discovered the tooth of an American mastodon dating back to the ice age. Mastodons were similar to the modern day elephant. They stood 8 to 10 feet tall, weighed 4 to 6 tons, were covered in hair, and had a long trunk and large curved tusks. Fossilized remains of this ice age mammal are a remarkable find anywhere in the world, Forir says.

Smallin Cave is known for its beautifully presented collection of fossils preserved in the Burlington layer of limestone. The cave’s unique formation has allowed for preservation of aquatic animals and loose fossils and bones to become trapped in an ancient stream bed. Forir is working to uncover more ancient fossils in Smallin Cave.

(Above) - Close view of the Ctenancanthus spine
(Below) - Measurement of the Ctenancanthus spine






April 2012 Update

Below are photos of an exploration trip through Smallin Cave taken early spring.














We have been finishing up updates at the cave over the last few weeks.
New handrail has been installed on the walkway leading to Smallin Cave. Handrail in
Fielden Cave has been installed and walkways are being completed. We can finally
say that Fielden Cave will be open for tours soon!



February 2012 Update

Renovations and Additions have been underway at Smallin Civil War Cave this winter.
We have been greatful for the mild weather which has allowed us to stay ahead of schedule!
Below are a few photos of our projects.


(Above) Gift shop addition - Outdoor waiting area, completed fall of 2011.
(Below) Entrance of Fielden Cave, Handrails are being installed to allow guests
to visit the archaeological dig site which will be ongoing throughout the summer



(Above) Fielden Cave Entrance.


(Below) The dig site that guests will visit as a new addition to their Smallin Cave tour.





(Above) The end of the Fielden Cave addition.
(Below) New handrail on the outdoor trail to Smallin Cave.






September 2011 Update

We are getting ready for our Civil War Lantern Light Tours to begin September 16th.
We will be giving the Civil War Lantern Light tours on Friday and Saturday evenings
at 7:00pm September - November. Call ahead to reserve a tour.

Below is a photo of Kevin in the entrance.



August 2011 Update

Below are photos of animals who have been hanging around the Smallin Cave Property this month.

(Above) A squirrel resting on the Indian trail marker tree
(Below) A bagworm just outside of the Smallin Cave entrance

(Above) A white spider in the cave
(Below) A snapping turtle in the stream that exits Fielden (Sonrise) Cave. He has
been hanging out in this stream for about a week!

(Above) Another photo of the snapping turtle in the Sonrise Cave stream.
(Below) A green caterpillar outside of the gift shop.

August 2011 Update

We have continuously found traces of animals in our cave trying to escape the sometimes harsh Missouri elements - from minks to turkeys to foxes to bears! Yesterday August 1, 2011 we found a roadrunner about 500 feet in our cave! You know that it is unseasonably hot and dry in the Ozarks when a desert animal escapes the heat by going underground! Below are photos of our caving roadrunner and its release.

Above: During the first tour of the day, the roadrunner was spotted here about 350 feet in.

Below: After the last tour, we decided to move the roadrunner back outside and found him
500 feet beyond the entrance in a cool 54 degree cave pool.

Above: A close-up of the roadrunner

Below: Owner Kevin Bright just after catching the Roadrunner

Below: Owner Kevin Bright and his grandson William getting ready to release the Roadrunner




July 2011 Update

We have been excited to share an incredibly rare sight with our guests over the last several days! - We have been spotting a female Bristly Cave Crayfish with eggs on our tours. The first time that this was ever photographed was two years ago. This photo was taken yesterday, July 12, 2011, on one of our tours by Delorse Eubanks.


Studies at Smallin Civil War Cave through June 2011

Dr. David Ashley, Professor of Biology, University of Missouri Western, St. Joseph

Twice a year, Dr. Ashley visits the cave with his Cave Biology class and surveys the cave life. Although all life is noted, the Bristly Cave Crayfish (Cambarus setosus) is what has brought scientists like Dr. Ashley to Smallin since 1898.

The Bristly is one of three species of cave-adapted crayfish in Missouri, and has only been documented in fifty caves between Missouri and Arkansas. Sightless and colorless, the Bristly has adapted to a life of feeling its way in the dark. Its claws, legs, and antennae are longer and thinner than those of a surface crayfish.

In his studies, Dr. Ashley records length, mass, and gender of the crayfish, as well as its location in the cave and the environment where it was found. As of May of 2010, whenever a crayfish is caught, it is numbered very carefully with a black marker so that the tour guides can keep track of the numbered crayfish seen on tour. From this, we have already recorded one particular individual, #23, losing a claw and regenerating it in just three month’s time.
In the summer of 2010, a presentation of the Bristly Cave Crayfish of Smallin Civil War Cave was given at an international convention of biologists. Dr. Ashley suggested that we inform visitors to the cave that some of his colleagues who have studied our crayfish have not actually been able to see one.

Last May, data loggers were installed along the 1400’ survey area of the cave which record the air/water temperatures each hour. This information will be paired with the biology surveys.
This month, a weather station will be placed over the mouth of the cave.


Dr. Aaron W. Johnson, Assistant Professor of Geology, Northwestern Missouri State University, Maryville

Dr. Johnson and Travis Doughty, one of Dr. Johnson’s students, have taken samples of sediments in both caves. This summer, the samples will be examined for different metals. The data collected from their studies will be presented at the national meeting ofthe Geological Society of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota later this October.

The data collected from this study will give us a broader picture of the relationship between the Smallin Cave ecosystem and the impacts from human activities in its watershed. Because some of our animals live in the sediment in early stages of their development, this study will give us a baseline set of data to use in order to monitor for any future change in cave sediment chemistry.


Dr. Thomas E. Tomasi, Associate Dean of the Graduate College and Professor of Biology, Missouri State University, Springfield

Smallin Civil War Cave was the first cave in Missouri to be checked for evidence of White Nose Syndrome by Dr. Tomasi. While none of its bats are infected, four Eastern Pipistrels (Tri-Color) bats were caught in the cave last winter and researched in a Torpor study. Each one of the four was placed in a different degree refrigerator (45, 50, 55, and 60 degrees Fahrenheit), each one had an EKG attached to its back to measure its heart rate, and each one had a video camera filming its activity throughout the winter months.

The four bats were released back in front of the cave in March, and visitors were able to spot our “Tomasi bats” for two months before their hair grew back in their bald spots where the EKG was attached.


Dr. Douglas R. Gouzie, Associate Professor of Geology, Missouri State University, Springfield

Dr. Gouzie has met with the owners of Smallin Civil War Cave and was present on the day of Dr. Johnson’s sediment research. His interest in the cave is its watershed. He is laying the groundwork for a dye tracing survey which will piece together sinkholes, losing streams, other cave systems to the Smallin Civil War Cave system.





June 2011 Update

We are now reserving for our Civil War Tours! Civil War Tours begin Friday, September 16th

and will be held every Friday and Saturday evening by reservation until November 25th.

Call or Email for more information. 417-551-4545 or

June 2011 Update

Keep Smallin Civil War Cave in mind for an evening adventure! Our wild tours are an off-trail adventure lasting approximately 2 hours. We will leave the tour trail, climb rimstone dams, and wade through 54 degree water to reach the mushroom formation, 1400 feet into the cave! Call ahead to reserve a Wild Tour!

Dr. David Ashley returned to Smallin Civil War Cave to continue his Bristly Cave Crayfish studies on Memorial Day weekend. Below is an incredible photo of one of these rare crayfish, showing the detail of its body.




May 2011 Update

This spring has been busy busy! We have been enjoying taking local school groups through the cave for their end of the year field trips, and repairing the trail from the train car's journey over our walkways! Check David Kloke's website for updates on his progress with building the Abraham Lincoln Funeral car.

We have several scientific studies coming up in May including sediment sampling, dye tracing, and of course our crayfish studies with Dr. David Ashley.

We have recently photographed some of the old carvings on the Great White Staircase. The photos and descriptions are below:


J Hannah 1848




1881 James Harper


Drury - Drury College in Springfield often visited the cave around the turn of the century



J Hannah

A Kelly 1905 - Located in an area of sometimes active flow, this signature is calcified into the formation.


Also, another beautiful cave has opened for tours in Missouri! Check out Cave Spring Park & Current River Cavern in Van Buren, MO.



February 2011 Update

The train car has been moved from Smallin Civil War Cave and has made it to Illinois! For more information on the traincar, go to KOLR 10, KY3, and David Kloke's website. Below are photos of the train car move.

(Above) David Kloke and Ricardo on day one of the train car removal.
(Below) Pulling the train car out of the valley where it sat for over 50 years!

(Above) Pulling the traincar uphill.
(Below) Flattening the traincar to remove the wooden sides.

(Above) Lifting the trucks of the traincar to load on the flatbed.
(Below) Day two, securing the pieces for the long haul to Illinois.


February 2011

We are in need of a part-time seasonal employee. If you are interested please fill out this application and bring it in to Smallin Civil War Cave.

Anyone who is interested in the Wild Tour Special has until February 15th to schedule a wild tour.

Our gift shop addition is almost complete. Below are photos of this addition.

Gift Shop 1

(Above) Original stacked stone fireplace.
(Below) New waiting area and history wall


History Wall

(Above) New Cave history wall with hand painted sign by Wanetta L. Bright
(Below) One of many "critters" hand-painted on the walls of the gift shop by Wanetta L. Bright




January 2011

2010 was a great first year for us! Thank you to all who visited us. We have great expectations for 2011. Keep checking our news updates and facebook to stay updated on our renovations and additions to Smallin Civil War Cave.

Our gift shop addition is underway currently. We are proud to reveal a gorgeous original stacked stone fireplace in our new waiting area. We hope to have this addition completed over the next month.

We have begun our Sonrise Cave project! We hope to have walkways completed in Sonrise Cave this season which would allow us to include a tour of Sonrise Cave on our regular guided tour of Smallin Cave.