It doesn't take much for me to get lost, so when I passed through the log cabin structures above, with only "make shift" signs indicating where I was, it seemed that this second attempt for me to find the Lost Canyon Cave was going to be as unsuccessful as my first attempt a month ago.
Fortunately, on this attempt, the one-way road leading into the woods was not blocked by heavy equipment at work, the way it was on my first visit. The narrow, paved roads through the woods finally came out into an opening where a sign pointed me to the Welcome Center (upper left of collage). The building was surrounded by dozens of golf carts, lined up like soldiers, as if they were guarding the building. However, since I had read that golf carts were an integral part of the cave tour, I thought I must be at the right place! The weather on the August day I visited was more suited to rocking on the porch, than gathering around the outdoor fireplace---either of which are available to guests at the welcome center.
It was shortly before 8 am when I arrived, and not surprisingly, I was the first cave tour guest of the day, so I was able to take photographs of the rustic, lodge-style decor of the Welcome Center. The Welcome Center is where you will purchase your $20/person ticket for the cave, and also sign the Waiver of Liability, acknowledging that you could die while you are on this tour.
This is also the place where you will need to use the rest room one last time before you embark on your quest to find the lost cave, as there are no potties at the cave or along the route. However, it is a unique restroom, and deserves a "look-see", even if you do not need to actually use it! The Welcome Center is also the place where you will be instructed on the use of the 4-person golf cart, which you will drive yourself, on the paved pathway to the bottom of the mountain.
The paved trail to the cave has more of the "amateur-looking" signs, that reassure you that you must be on the right road. Since the preserve covers a 218 acre forest in the Ozarks, it would be possible to get lost, if it were not for the trail!
Even though television weathermen will caution you to NOT DRIVE OVER A FLOODED LOW WATER BRIDGE, that is exactly what you are expected to do, as you pass beside one of the roadside ponds, that serves to collect the cascading stream coming from the waterfall that starts at the top of the hill.
Since I was still the only guest on the cart path at this hour, I stopped to take lots of photos!
This wrought iron fence has a lovely oval in it that makes a perfect frame for the woodland landscape.
You will have the opportunity to cross several artistically designed overpasses, as you wind your way up and down the two and a half miles of paved trail around the mountainside.
When I got to the flat platform just outside the cave entrance, the attendant there was very gracious to take a photo of me driving the snazzy Top of the Rock golf cart, complete with a front headlight (which you have to turn on when you go through the cave).
Once inside the cave, you will go through a short tunnel to get out into the larger room.
When you arrive in the main part of the cave, there is a railing that will keep you from driving off into the small lake at the center of the main room.
Some pretty stalagmites and stalactites are visible in the main room.
I could even see a column, where the ones growing from the top, had joined the ones growing from the bottom!
After the main room, you go through another short tunnel to the exit of the cave.
I have been through many caves, but this one is the first one with a bar in it, that was selling alcoholic beverages. If one plans on partaking of the selections at this bar, I would recommend that you pay the extra $8 to purchase the liability insurance on the golf cart you are driving!
This old-fashioned barn door marks the end of the tunnel at the exit.
Once you are outside and back on the large platform, you will see some wood frames placed around the space. The attendant told me these were "skeletons" of possible future structures that owner Johnny Morris may build at the cave entrance.
Since I was still the only guest taking the tour so far, the attendant said I could drive through again, which, of course, I did! This time I got a photo of the entrance, with a reflection of its entrance sign being captured in the puddle of water in the front of the doors.
On my second trip through the cave, I tried some different settings on my camera, and was able to capture a glimpse of the four-story waterfall that is the highlight of the cave tour.
The attendant said the Lost Canyon Cave is not very big, but it is very tall! I read on their website that Johnny Morris had first explored this cave as a child, when his family's friend, Dr. Graham Clark, owned the property.
Seems like this would be a beautiful
location to spend the night!
From the large platform at the entrance of the cave, one can see the magnificent covered bridge, that was handcrafted by Amish craftsmen.
When one is down at the covered bridge, you can look back at the cave entrance, and see the wooden framing of future structures, as well as two magnificent waterfalls, gushing out from beneath the entrance way to the cave.
A guest takes a different loop out of the valley to get back to the Welcome Center, so you get to see some new and different vistas, including another gorgeous waterfall!
And once again, you are expected to drive through the water. I remember when my husband and I were riding our Harley-Davidson motorcycle through Big Cedar Lodge property, and we were always a bit leery about going on two wheels through a slippery, cobblestone pathway similar to this. However, we made it then, and I made it through with my golf cart as well.
Inoted a lovely stone arched bridge at the top of this waterfall, high up the hillside.
The steep "hills and hollers" of the Ozarks make it a great location for waterfalls---whether they be natural or man-made!
Notice how the cart path (outlined with a metal railing) is built right into the side of this mountain. Keep your eyes on the road!
I hope I can return to take the tour when the leaves are changing colors, as the one red-leafed tree in the upper right of this photo gives a hint of the hues to come!
I had a nice little shower of water to cool me off when I went through the turn beside these waterfalls. That is because I was trying to drive with one hand and take photos with another hand, which prevented me from taking the turn wide enough. That meant I had to put my camera away, put the cart in reverse, and try to make it again---all the while feeling the cool spray of the waterfall on this hot summer morning!
The curves of the cart path make for a pleasing composition, in the rock bluff area shown in this photo.
Thetrail development of the road to and from the cave is still a "work in progress", as shown by these guys working on a section near the end.
I would recommend that you not have a fear of heights if your job involves working on the side of a cliff, as this guy is doing!
The cart path has a pullover area near the top, where you can stop and take in a view of the lake and the Ozark Mountains.Once you get back to the Welcome Center, you can take the free shuttle over to the main buildings of the Top of the Rock campus.
This lovely outdoor seating area and stone fireplace is located adjacent to the Arnie's Barn Restaurant, and the General Store.
The Top of the Rock golf course, restaurants, museum, and cave all make up what Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris is calling the "Ozark Heritage Preserve". And this really IS the "top of the rock", as it is the highest elevation in all of Taney County!
On the edge of the hillside is the three-story Chapel of the Ozarks, which Johnny Morris added as a salute to country churches. It comes complete with arch windows, copper roof, steeple, and bell tower. Since the chapel is at the Top of the "ROCK" property, it naturally brings to mind the phrase in Matthew 16:18, that says "and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." I am hoping that this Chapel of The Ozarks will be an enduring symbol of God's blessings on the people of the Ozarks! If you would like to plan a visit to this new attraction in the Branson, Missouri, area, just log on to www.bigcedar.com . This is a gorgeous venue that will give you "MILES OF SMILES"!! Tricia