The business directory contains web pages for Route 66 businesses and other attractions.

Meramec Caverns

Stanton, Missouri

Meramec Caverns logo

Meramec Caverns was established as a tourist attraction in the 1930s, and is particularly known for the many roadside barns that were painted with its name throughout the midwest to lure customers. A number of those barns still exist on Route 66.

The cavern itself is located just off old 66 not far from the town of Stanton, Missouri, and has long been considered an essential stop along the Mother Road.

The cave was first discovered by European explorers in the eighteenth century, and was at first called Saltpeter Cave after the mineral deposits (potassium nitrate) found there, which at the time were valuable in the manufacture of gunpowder.

In the late 1800s, the cave became popular as a sort of dance hall, thanks to its cool summer temperatures and the presence of a large flat-floored chamber which became known as the Ballroom.

Jesse James cabin
Jesse James' cabin

Lester Dill acquired the property in the 1930s and immediately turned it into an exhibition cave to be marketed to the public. In the 1940s, a new section was discovered which Mr. Dill promoted as having been used by the Jesse James gang as a hideout (it being well-established that James spent a great deal of time in Missouri generally).

View inside the caverns
Inside the caverns

The previously-mentioned barn murals are not the only innovative promotional gimmick provided by owner Dill. He also pioneered what today we call the bumper sticker, although early on they had no adhesive and had to be hand-tied to patrons' bumpers by cavern employees. Thus, each visitor left with a free souvenir of the caverns, while Meramec Caverns received additional promotion as those vehicles continued their travels. Avid postcard collectors can tell you that Meramec Caverns was very active in producing the much-sought-after "Real Photo" type of cards over the years; several varieties are included in Route 66 University's own online postcard collection.

Today, Meramec Caverns boasts not only the many underground features beloved by cavers, but also canoe and rafting trips, gold panning, and a restaurant and gift shop.


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About Meramec Caverns
Business Type: Natural attraction
Owner(s):
Address: PO Box 948, Stanton, MO 63079
Telephone: 573.468.CAVE (3166)
Web site: www.americascave.com
Directions: Located off Interstate 44, Exit 230, at Stanton, Missouri (about 60 miles west of St. Louis). Take State Highway W east and follow the signs. See also our GPS-based Clickable G-Maps.

 

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