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COMO YOU KNOW: Devil's Icebox

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | 9:41 a.m. CDT; updated 7:15 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 9, 2014

CoMo You Know, a community wiki, adds context to stories of local interest and serves as a reference tool for readers.

Summary

The Devil’s Icebox is a double sinkhole in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park that offers a view of the underground stream and cool, refreshing air.

Factbox

Located in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Area: Passage distance of approximately 7 miles

Official website: Missouri State Parks website

Background

Pilot Knob Ore Company donated the land for Rock Bridge Memorial State Park for conservation purposes, after ceasing its mining operations in 1987.

Today, visitors can explore the natural wonders of the 2,273-acre park along more than 15 miles of hiking and bicycling trails. Streams bordered by bottomland forests and surrounded by forested hills flow through the park.

According to the Missouri State Parks website, the cave passages have become home to specially adapted animals. Endangered gray bats use the cave as a summer roosting site to give birth to and raise their young.  Each gray bat eats several hundred insects each night above ground and then deposits guano in the cave during the day and so plays an important role in two ecosystems. The cave is the only known habitat for the pink planarian, a species of flatworm.

The cave’s watershed of several thousand acres contains hundreds of sinkholes as well as streams, which allow water to drain down cracks in the limestone rock and flow into the cave.

The water’s quality affects the pink planarian and other cave animals.

The stream that exits Devil’s Icebox Cave and flows through the rock bridge was a source of power for settlers in the 1800s. A stone dam was built at the rock bridge to help harness the water’s power to operate a gristmill. The first paper mill west of the Mississippi River was established at the site in 1834 followed by a whiskey distillery in 1847. A blacksmith shop, store, several homes and roads completed the once-thriving community of Pierpont, which is French for rock bridge, according to the park's history online.

Links and sources

Caves of the Devil's Icebox were canceled during the summer and fall of 2010 because of a fungus spread among bats.

Improvements to the cave's trail were scheduled in fall 2010.

Tips for packing for a tour

Updated: March 20, 2013


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