Photo courtesy of Tegan Shockley

Cruise into the Lake’s caves you can only access by water… if you dare.


by Nathan Bechtold, with photos by Tegan Shockley

As water dissolves rock, the voids left behind seem carved into the subterranean landscape by a mysterious and whimsical hand: springs, caves, and sinkholes abound across the Lake of the Ozarks region. Winding beneath central Missouri’s landscape, this ancient geological phenomenon is known as karst. The most famous at Lake of the Ozarks is probably at Ha Ha Tonka Spring, from which crystal-clear water constantly pours, rushing into the Niangua Arm of the Lake. And tourists and residents alike know the Lake area’s many beloved caves: Bridal Cave, Jacob’s Cave, Stark Caverns.

But few know about the Lake’s hidden caves: yawning chasms at the water’s edge that invite the most adventurous explorers to come and see…


Onyx Cave — Big Niangua Arm

Up the Big Niangua Arm, about two miles past Ha Ha Tonka, on the northern side of the shore, you’ll find it: Onyx Cave. (If you get lost, check Google Maps: it’s on there!)

Big enough for a kayak or PWC, but too small for all but the smallest of motorboats, Onyx Cave is a true Lake explorer’s delight. Paddle inside, and it winds back a fair distance, offering a wonderfully quiet, mysterious adventure and some cool photo ops!


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