This photograph shows the Lily Pad Room of Onondaga Cave State Park, located near Leasburg, Missouri. Onondaga Cave provides visitors with near-pristine examples of water deposit features, or speleothems, such as stalagmites, stalactites, soda straws, flowstones, and dams. These features form when acidic surface water dissolves calcite and deposits it as it flows through and around the dense rock. The cave is saturated with such elements, which earned it a National Natural Landmark designation.
The cave was a popular destination throughout the twentieth century. A spring inside the cave provides a constant source of water used to power mills in the 1800s and was first explored in 1886 by Charles Christopher and John Eaton, who began to tell others of the wonder of Onondaga Cave. The cave’s popularity grew during the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, better known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, when passengers traveled by rail to Leasburg and rode horse-drawn wagons to the cave for tours. The cave continued to attract visitors in the 1950s when it was eventually purchased by Lester B. Dill. Credited with increasing the site’s popularity, Dill also worked diligently to preserve it while continuing operations as a commercial cave.
After Dill’s death, the land was sold to the Nature Conservancy, who then transferred the land and cave to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The site was officially incorporated into the State Park system in 1982. The site is still a popular tourist destination with nearly half a million visitors annually.
Categories: Natural Enviroment
Contributing Institution: Springfield-Greene County Library District
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Photographer: Ben Divin