Onondaga Cave State Park in Leasburg, Missouri is a great place to spend the day or the weekend with spacious RV campsites, picnicking, hiking, cave tours, fishing, boating, and more. You cannot go wrong when you visit a park that has everything. The whole family will love taking a guided cave tour where you can feast your eyes on geological marvels like a river flowing through the cavern and learn about this unique habitat.
The park area was settled in 1850 by George Cresswell and his family, who built a mill on the river near the springs. However, the mill was flooded in 1881 and the property was bought by William Henry Davis, who built a new mill a bit further down.A local named Charles Christopher discovered a cave behind the spring when exploring in 1886 and bought the land around it, naming it Mammoth Cave of Missouri. For the next century, the property changed hands about a dozen times but was finally made into a state park in 1981.
This 1,317-acre park has almost nine miles of trails, 64 campsites, miles of riverbank, and plenty of fun stuff to keep you busy. Pack up the camper or RV and head out to Onondaga Cave State Park where you may be just an hour from the city, but you are also in the middle of the Huzzah Conservation Area.
Only about an hour from St. Louis, two hours from Springfield, or four hours from Kansas City, Onondaga Cave State Park in east-central Missouri is a short drive from anywhere in the state. This famous park is well-known for its many caves and the beautiful, majestic Meramec River but what makes it really unique is how close it is to some of the major cities. It is also easy to find since it is right off Interstate 44 and there are many signs and billboards directing you how to get there. If you still cannot find it, just ask one of the locals.
When you get off the highway, you will follow Highway H for six miles, which is a very curvy and narrow road in some spots. If you are driving a large motorhome or pulling a trailer or camper, you will have to be careful and drive slowly. Also, keep a lookout for deer and other critters that sometimes wander onto the road. In the park, it is best if you leave your rig at the campsite and walk to wherever you want to go because some of the roads are narrow and have a lot of low hanging tree branches.
There are 64 campsites here; 17 basic and 47 with water and electric hookups. Driveways vary in length from 38 to 82 feet long, so even the largest motorhome or RV will fit nicely. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table, and lantern hanger and there is potable water access nearby. Campsites 1-13 are right on the river bank by the day-use area so it is convenient but can be noisy at times. There is a shower house with hot water, restrooms with running water, a laundry facility, payphone, and RV dump site by the host campsite number 66. You can also find a playground for the kids and a woodlot so you can chop your own firewood. Further down by the end of the campsite, there is another shower house, restroom, and woodlot as well as two parking lots for overflow parking. The amphitheater is at the end of the Amphitheater Trail by campsite 65. Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash. Frost-free water is available at the front garden, visitor center, shelter area, dump station, launch area, and the day use area.
First-come, first-served sites are available on a day-to-day basis if the campsite has not been reserved already. However, you should check with the camp host or park staff before choosing a site. If you cannot find a staff member, follow the instructions on the vacancy card on the post at the front of the campsite.
There is one large picnic shelter that seats up to 72 people you can reserve. It has water, electric, BBQ grills, and picnic tables, and is located along the river bank so you can enjoy some fishing as well. There are plenty of fish in the Meramec River that are cold weather biters so pack your fishing gear in the rig. For those of you with a smaller family, the other shelter at the Blue Heron Trail trailhead is first-come, first-served and holds up to 30 people. However, there is no grill or water so you will have to bring your own.
Hiking in Onondaga State Park is popular with locals as well as visitors so make sure you park the RV and get out and walk a bit. There are five trails ranging from easy to moderate with lengths of one-tenth of a mile to three miles. The easiest trail is also the shortest in length and is the path you have to take to get to the amphitheater. The most difficult is the Deer Run Trail, which is two and a half miles of hills, steps, and bluffs up to 100 feet high above the Meramec River. This trail takes you to Cathedral Cave, which also gives 90-minute guided tours.
If you have been wanting to see the caves but they are closed for the winter season, you can go visit some of the other 38 caves at the park. These caves are spread out all over the park, some you can only get to by river access and a few are quite treacherous. If you are new to spelunking, you may want to take a professional with you. There are many in the area that offer tours or classes. Leave the RV at the campsite and go find a cave to explore.
The visitor center at the park has many interesting and informative exhibits that explain why Missouri is called the “Cave State.” During the summer months, from March through October, you can visit the center where they also host many different programs for the kids as well as adults. If you want to learn some cool facts about Missouri and the 6,000 caves in the state, you need to stop by the visitor center. And don’t worry, the parking lot is big enough for your RV or trailer.
Make sure you pack your beach toys and supplies in the camper before you head to the park because there is plenty of beachfront access on the Meramec River here. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the entire day at the beach before heading back to the campsite. You can even walk upstream and float down on an inner tube, raft, canoe, or kayak. However, there are no lifeguards, so you will be swimming at your own risk.
Just like the name says, Onondaga Cave is the highlight of the park so you should definitely leave the rig at the campsite and take a cave tour while you are here. There are trained tour guides who will take you on a 90-minute tour through the cave where you can see the Lily Pad Room, The Twins, and the King’s Canopy. And don’t forget about Cathedral Cave, which also has tours during the summer and has unique sights you cannot see in Onondaga Cave like the Upstream Cathedral, Octopus Room, and the Liberty Bell.