The main tour covers about one-third mile and is relatively flat with few steps, although there are stairs to reach the entrance. Once inside the cave, guides point out fossils and visitors report they often see salamanders. Among the cave’s more dramatic limestone formations are a set of draperies they call the Musical Chimes, which, when tapped gently by a guide, makes a drum sound. The 10 Ton Balanced Rock formation is a large, intact section of limestone that must have broken away while the cave was forming and floated to the bedrock below. You’ll also see a 75-foot rimstone dam formed over thousands of years—one of the longest known in Missouri. In addition, the cave has many stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone and much more. Included with the tour is a visit to Browning Museum, filled with a variety of minerals, fossils, arrowheads, artifacts and other collections.
The cave’s history is interesting too. Owners call it a hidden gem and that’s certainly how it began. While checking traps one day in 1925, Arthur Browning felt a cool breeze coming from a limestone outcrop and discovered what he thought could be a small cave entrance. Returning with help to remove rocks and debris—later determined the result of a landslide between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago—Browning turned his discovery into a family business that continues today.
Centuries before Browning’s time—and before the landslide—the cave was used beginning 8,500 years ago by Native Americans who lived in family groups under bluffs and in small caves. The people who used the cave, and others like it, were known as bluff dwellers, inspiring this tour cave’s name.