A drought in Missouri’s Ozark region has exposed caverns not seen in decades, part of an ancient cave system that played a key role in the Civil War.
Kevin Bright, owner of the Smallin Civil War Cave tourist attraction in Ozark, told The Post Thursday that the dry spell had allowed his company to map an extra 1,100 feet of the cave.
“From the earliest time, people have always gathered in the cave,” Bright explained. “It was a gathering place after church on Sundays, where women would receive letters from their relatives.”
During the Civil War, Bright added, “there were three [Union] spies associated with the cave.”
“It’s common to have droughts throughout history. During the Civil War there was a serious drought in the Ozarks,” Bright explained.
In addition to being a prime spot for spooks to lay low, the cave also had a more practical purpose.
“On Monday mornings, the cave was a laundromat,” Bright said. “That’s where the ladies would go and they would wash their clothes in the opening of the cave.”
With much of the Midwest experiencing dry conditions, the lack of rain has allowed experts access to previously inaccessible subterranean tunnels.
“The drought conditions are allowing cavers to enter passages that formed tens of thousands of years ago but have in recent times been filled with water,” John Gunn, a professor at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at University of Birmingham, explained to Newsweek earlier this week.
“Whenever we have dry spells in the Ozarks … sometimes it allows us to access areas [of the cave] that we don’t normally see,” Bright agreed.
When asked how long he thinks the hidden caverns will remain exposed, Bright left it up to the weather.
“We will never be able to conquer nature — it is an entity that does not seek our permission,” he mused. “We’ve got some more time – we’re hoping to get out there again before it fills back up.”
News about the discoveries at the Smallin Civil War Cave broke around the same time that five tourists– including young children– were stranded in the Grand Canyon Caverns for over 24 hours. After an extensive rescue effort, all five were lifted to safety on Monday evening.