What you need to know about bats & Missouri caves

Missouri is blessed with more than 5,600 caves, and many of these are in the Missouri Ozarks.   

Caves can be exciting to explore but there are a few things you need to consider before going into caves.   

One of those considerations — and this is a relatively recent one — is whether that cave is one where certain species of bats are hibernating.

Years ago, this would not have been an issue, but now it is and I will explain why.

First, some personal background relative to this issue. When I was a kid in the 1940’s and 1950’s, we used to spend at least a week every summer at the Alton Club, located on the Current River, between Salem and Eminence, Missouri. (The Alton Club is now owned by the State of Missouri and has been renamed Current River State Park.)   

There was and still is a relatively large cave just upstream on the Current River from the main grounds of the Alton Club. That cave is known as “Bat Cave” and appears as such on most topographic maps of the area.

As far as I can tell, it is now owned by The Nature Conservatory. The cave is not open to the public.

When we were kids, one of our annual adventures at the Alton Club was to climb the bluff leading up to Bat Cave and to go inside.   

Frankly, it is hard to believe our parents let us go to Bat Cave totally unsupervised, but if you also grew up in the same time period as I did, you may recall that the only rule most of us children had in the summer was to “just be home for dinner,” right?

The opening to Bat Cave, as best I can recall, was relatively large — perhaps 30 feet wide and just as tall as it was wide. 

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