You wouldn’t want to be in this Missouri cave when its nearly mile-long roof suddenly gave way.
That’s what geologists say happened 10,000 years ago in an area west of Thayer in southeast Missouri. The cave roof collapsed, creating a massive chasm that some call Missouri’s little Grand Canyon.
The 130-foot-tall canyon walls left behind — about three-quarters of a mile long — are so unusual that Grand Gulf was designated a state park in 1984.
And viewing the huge chasm just became a little easier thanks to a new overlook platform and installation of eight new interpretive panels that tell the story of Grand Gulf.
On Saturday, the public is invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Grand Gulf State Park, where park officials will show the new improvements.
The ceremony will begin at 9:45 a.m. at the trailhead near the main parking lot. A public meeting to discuss issues related to Grand Gulf State Park will start at 10 a.m. directly following the ribbon-cutting.
The public is invited to share comments about the park and its operations during the meeting. Staff will be present to provide information and answer questions.
The meetings give staff the opportunity to inform the public of the current status and future plans for the park or historic site, while also offering visitors the opportunity to comment on the facilities.
According to Missouri State Parks, Grand Gulf includes a surface creek that drains about 28 square miles and empties into the chasm. It flows through the collapsed cave chasm and beneath a 250-foot natural bridge (an uncollapsed remnant of the original cave) and back into the open canyon.
At the lower end of the chasm, the creek enters the mouth of the remaining underground cave system. From there, it travels 9 miles underground and re-emerges at Mammoth Spring in Arkansas.
After heavy rains, the creek will rise enough to fill the gulf to depths exceeding 100 feet, and the water drains out slowly over a period of several weeks.
Visitors can view the gulf from trails on top, or from the bottom of the chasm where they can walk under the natural bridge.
Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, visitors are strongly encouraged to follow social-distancing guidelines and be proactive in protecting themselves and others while at the park. Come prepared with hand sanitizer and bottled water, avoid large and congested crowds, and stay home if sick.
Face coverings are encouraged when social-distancing measures are difficult to maintain and may be required by local orders.
Grand Gulf State Park is located 13 miles west of Thayer on Highway W.
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