The Mark Twain Cave is the oldest cave in Missouri, featured in Mark Twain’s stories about Tom Sawyer and Injun Joe with tales of romantic adventures and fatal hideouts from the law. I ran into this cave completely by accident while roaming the highway linking Illinois and Kansas. I was a bit tired and just when I thought I should take a break a big sign indicated that there are cave tours nearby and I figured it would be the perfect place to wind down for about an hour. Little did I know that Hannibal is actually Mark Twain’s town and that the cave tours were of Mark Twain’s caves. Somehow, in my mind, the great Mississippi and tales of slavery were far to the south, but apparently it all took place here, in Missouri. All around town you’ll get to see scenes featured in Mark Twain’s stories, and if – like me – you grew up on these stories, you’re in for a real treat. That was one of the nicest accidental finds I’ve ever had.
Anyhow, I arrived just in time for the last tour. You can only go into the caves with a tour guide, and the tour is very well done, even if a bit too well-rehearsed. They’ll guide you through the caves for a whole hour, explaining what happened where and why Mark Twain might have been inspired to build his stories the way that he did. It turns out that this cave was indeed very famous for all sorts of historical events, including a hideout for the infamous Jesse James. Throughout history, the cave has been used for lab experiments, hiding weapons during civil war, hideouts for legendary outlaws, this place has it all, and all around the caves you’ll be shown graffiti and marks to support claims for these historical events.
The group gathers around outside to briefly review the cave adventures of Tom, Becky and Injun Joe ….
And once you’re in temperatures really drop, it’s cold, bring something warm…
Each one of those photos tells a special story about the cave’s history, and – as you can see – it’s very nicely lit and has signs posted next to the important attractions.
There are a few more caves to explore in the area, if caves are your thing. If you’ve had enough of caves, then the nearby Hannibal town offers plenty more in the way of Mark Twain, so be sure to make enough time to explore the area. From a quick stopby to get some rest I ended up staying for over 4 hours exploring the area. I could have just driven by without ever knowing, and I’m so glad I had the fortunate opportunity to see this magical area.