Milestones of Missouri's Hidden Hollows

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

Geologist Edward L. Clark and subsequently Thomas R. Beveridge, resulted in the publication of the book Caves of Missouri in 1956.

The Bretz study and book were more than just academic achievements and a scientific milestone, they were endeavors that captivated Missouri cave enthusiasts, laymen and scientists alike. Thomas R. Beveridge, who was instrumental in seeing that the Bretz book got published, and Henry Douglas of the Virginia Cave Survey, who gave the early Missouri cavers much advice, provided inspiration for the birth of the Missouri Speleological Survey (MSS) in 1956. Dr. Oscar Hawksley, a biologist from Warrensburg; Jerry Vineyard, a geologist from Dixon and Frank Dahlgren, a machinist from St. Louis, founded the MSS.

Founders designed the MSS, a non-profit consortium, to unite the cave-oriented ambitions, skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and dedication of both amateurs and professionals. Its membership was open to anyone who demonstrated responsibility in cave conservation and gave evidence in some form of reciprocating efforts towards the goals of the MSS.

To facilitate its work and provide a permanent repository for material gathered by its many affiliate caving groups, the MSS entered into a cooperative agreement with the Missouri Geological Survey and Water Resources (now the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' Division of Geology and Land Survey). State Geologist Thomas Beveridge extended a hand of friendship to the cavers. It was a handshake that would bear fruit and foster a partnership that would last for generations to come.

The accomplishments of the MSS since 1956 toward a better understanding of and appreciation for our Missouri cave resources are legion. Volunteers of the MSS have recorded, mapped and reported on thousands of caves in the state. In 1985, the efforts of Missouri cavers received attention when the MSS received a national Volunteer Action Award for their service and community spirit.

But state involvement in caves actually began before the creation of the MSS and its partnership with a branch of state government. The State of Missouri officially acquired its first caves in the period 1923 to 1928 with the creation of several state parks containing caves and springs, including Meramec State Park. Two of the more than 30 caves in Meramec State Park were used as show caves and operated as concessions.

In 1933, Missouri passed legislation enabling the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to start defining areas for a national forest. By 1945, the USFS had created the Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF). Its

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