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Meramec Caverns is a cavern system in the Ozarksmarker, near Stantonmarker, Missourimarker, USAmarker. It was formed from the erosion of large limestone deposits over millions of years. Pre-Columbian Native American artifacts have been found in the caverns. Currently the caverns are a tourist attraction, with more than fifty billboards along Interstate 44. It is considered one of the primary attractions along former U.S. Highway 66. Meramec Caverns is the most-visited cave in Missouri with some 150,000 visitors annually. Meramec Caverns is ranked #171 on CaverBob.com's USA Long Cave list.

History

The Caverns have existed from the past 400 million years, slowly forming through deposits of limestone. Centuries ago, Native Americans used the cavern system for shelter. The first cave west of the Mississippi River to be explored by Europeans, it was "discovered" in 1722 by a French miner. During the 1700s, the cave was used for extracting saltpeter for the manufacture of gunpowder. In the Civil War era, the Union Army used the caves as a saltpeter plant, but the plant was discovered and destroyed by Confederate guerrillas, including future famous outlaw Jesse James. Reportedly, James and his brother and partner in crime Frank used the caves as a hideout in the 1870s. One legend claims that the sheriff sat in front of the cave, waiting for Jesse and his pals to emerge; however, they had found another exit. In 1933, the extended cave system was discovered, revealing the present , and was introduced to the public as a tourist attraction in 1935 by Lester B. Dill, who invented the bumper sticker as a means of promoting the caverns.

In 1960, Meramec Caverns began to rent billboard spaceā€”in the caverns. The owners claimed this was the only underground billboard in the world.

Noted attractions

Wine Room

Wine Room
The fifth level of Meramec Caverns includes a "Wine Room." The Wine Room is home to the world's rarest cave formation, The Wine Table. The onyx table stands six feet high and is supported on three natural legs. Known as an aragonite formation, this structure was composed almost entirely underwater. The Wine Room and the Wine Table are adorned with grape-like clusters called botryoids. Originally called the Wine Room because of these grape clusters, the cave now claims that it is called that because of the "whining" that visitors do when they learn that the room is accessible only after climbing numerous stairs (a total of 58 steps).

"Greatest Show Under the Earth"

Greatest Show Under the Earth
The Cavern also contains a massive sheet wall of formations formed during the past 78 million years, which the cave calls its "stage curtain" and which is also used for displaying the spectacular light and sound show called "Greatest Show Under the Earth".

"Hollywood"

A room within the cavern was used for Hollywoodmarker productions, most notably The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1973). In the particular movie, the site was used as the cave system where Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn find the hidden gold. An episode of Lassie was also filmed in this part of the cave.

Mirror Room

The Mirror Room is a room within the cavern that contains a stream of water about deep. However, when a group of lights are turned on, the depth of the water is perceived by many to be as great as , due to the reflection of the cavern's roof on the undisturbed water.

Ballroom

First used in 1890, The Ballroom is a room in the cavern system that was used in earlier times as a room for square dances and other community events. It is now one of the first stops on the tour and is used for a few annual concerts by the Lester Family.

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