Tag Archives: Onondaga Cave State Park

Bats, Caves, and White-Nose Syndrome

Weird! Cool! Bats!

Weird! Cool! Bats! [Image: www.nature.org/]

Bats are awesome. They are a crucial part of insect control, pollination, and seed dispersal within their environments. They’re adorable, they help mitigate mosquito populations, and they have suffered huge, tragic population losses over the last 10 years because of a fungus that is incredibly spreadable, Pseudogeomyces destructans (Pd).

Over six million bats have died because of white-nose syndrome (WNS), which is caused when Pd is present in a cave where bats are hibernating. The hibernating bats are understandably awoken by the discomfort of having a fungus growing on their faces, but being awake prematurely is terribly costly in terms of energy. The bat is supposed to be sleeping the winter away because its food sources are limited or nonexistent, and it will likely starve or die in pursuit of food in weather and temperatures they aren’t built to withstand.

Poor bat.

I don’t think any of us would get a good night’s rest with that kind of thing going on. [Image: www.whitenosesyndrome.org/]

All this to say: While WNS is spread mostly between bat neighbors, humans can contribute to the problem if explorers delve into a cave where Pd spores are present, and then without proper precautions, wear the same gear to an uninfected location. That is, even though human transmission is neither the primary mode of transmission between bat populations, nor very common, precautionary measures are a critical aspect of protecting a very important species, especially when we haven’t entirely figured out how to combat it.


Dinner on the fly. [Image: www.scienceinseconds.com/]

If you’re an avid spelunker or cave explorer, especially on the east coast of the U.S. and Canada, you’ve probably already read up on the appropriate decontamination protocol for your subterranean equipment. But for those of you who are new to the activity, it’s best to think of white-nose syndrome as an invasive species. One should endeavor to avoid contact with an area where the fungus has been documented, and certainly contact with bats, regardless of the confirmed presence of the fungus or not.

Here at Pocket Ranger®, we support the noble spirit of subterranean exploration! It’s a great way to stay active in the year’s hottest months and is a fun and enriching way of experiencing an inverse of our lives above ground. But with the deadly proliferation of white-nose syndrome in American bat populations, there are responsibilities that cave explorers must recognize. Hopefully we all keep them in mind as we spelunk our way out of the oppressive summer heat.

National Public Lands Day

National Public Lands Day 2015 - Square Banner - Solo Hiker [Image: www.publiclandsday.org]

Image: www.publiclandsday.org

Each year, Americans are asked to set aside one day—the last Saturday in September—to “lend a hand to the lands” that we use to enjoy the outdoors. National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands, and this year, it’s taking place on Saturday, September 26th.

You can join thousands of volunteers who will gather at parks, forests, reservoirs, and other public areas to help improve and steward our nation’s natural resources. There will be opportunities to build bridges and trails, plant stream banks, restore lakes and wetlands, remove invasive plants, improve wildlife habitat, repair cultural resources and recreational facilities, and carry out hundreds of other projects. Volunteers will also learn about the importance of public lands to the nation’s environmental, economic, and social health as well as get a firsthand perspective on the problems and issues facing land managers.

If you love the outdoors, here’s your chance to give back to nature! Mark your calendar for September 26th, and find a NPLD site near you by checking the list below or visiting publiclandsday.org. And don’t forget to use our Pocket Ranger® apps during your visit to our beloved parks, forests, and lakes!

Red Rock State Park – Sedona, AZ

Maintenance and cleanup of park facilities, trails, and Oak Creek riparian areas. Park interpreters will be available for questions regarding the Oak Creek and its importance to Arizona.

Call 928-282-6907 or click here for more information.

Lake Dardanelle State Park – Russellville, AR

Join Lake Dardanelle State Park to celebrate this national cleanup event in conjunction with the Great Arkansas Cleanup to help pick up trash along the lake and throughout the community. Volunteers clean trails, shorelines, and public parks around Russellville. Following the cleanup will be a ceremony for all those who volunteered and a free lunch along with activities for the whole family.

Call 479-890-7479 or click here for more information.

The Barnacle Historic State Park – Coconut Grove, FL

Partake in a morning of park cleanup, landscape beautification, and exotic plant removal. At the conclusion of the event, Park Rangers will provide free lunch and a tour of the historic house for registered volunteers. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Call 305-442-6866 or click here for more information.

George L. Smith State Park – Twin City, GA

Saturday, September 26th is Your State Parks Day. Come out and help with park cleanup and beautification projects. Free T-shirts, water bottles and other goodies will be given to all volunteers.

Call 478-763-2759 or click here for more information.

Sterling State Park – Monroe, MI

Help collect native prairie seed from grasses and wildflowers to restore Lakeplain Prairie.

Call 517-719-2285 or click here for more information.

Tombigbee State Park – Tupelo, MS

Beginning in 2015, Toyota Mississippi will kick-off a five-year NPLD project at Tombigbee State Park. Kids Camp will be offered to children under age 12 with projects that include an interactive water conservation activity provided by Mississippi 4-H as well as painting and building bird houses and feeders. NPLD will conclude with a volunteer celebration including a BBQ lunch, fishing, disc golf, live music, and door prizes (must be present to win). Over the five years, the park will be completely renovated including cabin restoration, bridge construction, installation along nature trails, removal of invasive vegetation, planting flowers and shrubs, welcome center renovations, and overall park beautification.

Call 662-317-3038 or click here for more information.

Onondaga Cave State Park – Leasburg, MO

Attend the Green Living Fall Festival and National Public Lands Day Bio-Blitz! The day’s activities will center around villages and will contain a variety of topics, including educational activities, hands-on activities, vendors, displays and demonstrations, green products, local farming, and sustainable living. The bio-blitz, in honor of National Public Lands Day, will feature experts in a variety of scientific and ecological fields leading groups to identify and record species of flora and fauna throughout the park. The public is invited to voluntarily participate in any group. The Onondaga Friends Association will be demonstrating the making of apple butter and freshly canned jars will be available for sale along with many, many other vendor items.

Call 573-245-6576 or click here for more information.

Elk Knob State Park – Todd, NC

Head over to Elk Knob State Park for National Public Lands Day where you can help work on maintaining the Summit Trail or the new Maple Run Trail. Tools will be provided. Bring water, lunch, and work gloves and wear close-toed shoes.

Call 828-297-7261 or click here for more information.

Black Moshannon State Park – Philipsburg, PA

Help beautify Black Moshannon State Park! Projects include trail maintenance, native plant gardening, litter pickup, and planting. Pre-registration is required. Lunch will be provided and free camping is available that weekend for volunteers.

Call 814-342-5960 or click here for more information.

Bledsoe Creek State Park – Gallatin, TN

Help put together playground equipment at Bledsoe Creek State Park!

Call 615-347-3639 or click here for more information.

Onondaga Cave State Park

Since we only recommend the coolest parks, today we’re spreading the word about Missouri’s Onondaga Cave State Park. It has many special features (um, there’s a cave! hello!) AND will earn you 5 points on the MO State Parks Passport Challenge. You know, a GeoChallenge (aka the ultimate scavenger hunt of geolocations, played on your Pocket Ranger® app at your state park destinations) that requires you to visit like, all of Missouri’s state parks. If seeing all of that natural beauty isn’t enticing enough, then you should know that we also give prizes to the winners of the most points! So, sign up here, get moving, and in the meantime, we’ll prep with you the sights you’ll see at one of your obstacles: Onondaga Cave State Park.

Onondaga Cave State Park sign

Welcome to Onondaga Cave State Park.
[Image: wildbirds.org]

The Basics

We thought it’d be a good idea to give you some basic information about the park. So, here goes: Onondaga Cave State Park is all about the cave. According to one of our crafty GeoChallenge copywriters, the park allows visitors to “explore the underworld of Missouri.” (We told you said clever copywriter was crafty!) Because when she said “underworld”, she didn’t mean, like, the hellmouth (think Buffy) or demons or vampires or what not –she meant the underworld literally, like the world you see inside a cave! She also went on to say that “once guests descend into the mysterious darkness, they will delight in the soaring stalagmites, drooping stalactites, and active flowstones that have helped this park earn recognition as a National Natural Landmark.” It’s pretty much why Missouri is often called “The Cave State”. (And you have no business reading this unless you already knew that! JUST KIDDING, GUYS.) So if you weren’t already convinced that this park was special, we know you are now.

Onondaga Cave State Park lily pad room

The lily pad room in Onondaga Cave. We’ll discuss shortly.
[Image: wikipedia.com]

Let’s talk about the cave.

And by cave, we mean caves! As in, two! You see, you can take a tour of both Onondaga AND Cathedral caves. You’ll be guided over “electrically lighted paved walkways” while your trained guide provides “information about geologic wonders such as the King’s Canopy, the Twins, and other unusual speleothems.”

Onondaga Cave State Park cave

Caves, caves, caves.
[Image: budgettravel.com]

Now, tours are offered from April 13th- October 13th, but don’t fear! The MO State Parks Passport Challenge doesn’t end till next year, so you can still manage a visit and rack up the points.

cathedral cave onondaga cave state park

The Cathedral Cave.
[Image: alisha-smiles.blogspot.com]

That’s so camp.

Well, not really. Just trying to grab your attention. But, there is camping at Onondaga Cave State Park. Campsites have electric/water, and the campground has a playground and an amphitheater, where nature programs take place (from April-October.) But the campground is open year-round! There’s also a special-use camping area for youth groups (with no electricity or water).

Take a hike.

Or one, or two, or five. That’s right –Onondaga Cave State Park has five hiking trails for you to enjoy: the Blue Heron Trail (which also welcomes bikers), the Deer Run Trail, the Oak Ridge Trail, the Amphitheater Trail (which is also handicapped accessible), and the Vilander Buff Trail.

Under the sea.

And by that, we mean atop the water. The park has a canoe launch and a boat ramp, so you can bring your vessel to glide along the Meramec River. Although canoe rental is not available at Onondaga Cave State Park, there are some nearby liveries.

Need another water activity? There’s plenty of fishing! The word “Meramec” actually comes from an Indian word for catfish, so you know there’s a whole lot of that. Other fish you’re likely to find are bluegill, crappie, drum, and smallmouth bass. Make sure to bring your fishing licenses and bait with you, as they’re not available for sale at the Onondaga Cave State Park.

Onondaga Cave State Park water

Perfect for boating and fishing.
[Image: daniellesotherblog.blogspot.com]

Get with the program!

Every Saturday form April through October, the park runs evening nature programs. They’re usually about one hour and range in topics –you can check what it’ll be when you arrive.

There are also daytime nature programs at various times on Saturdays and Sundays –(think nature walks and the like.) For more information on interpretive programs, call the park office at (573) 245-6576.

Onondaga Cave State Park

Just a lovely waterfall you may find on a nature walk at Onondaga Cave State Park.
[Image: flickr.com]

What else?

There’s definitely more –great picnic areas, a super-cool eco-friendly playground made up of recycled plastic material, unsupervised swimming holes for the adventurous – but we’re through talking about Onondaga Cave State Park because the more we think, the more we want to go there. So, plan your visit, sign up for the MO State Parks Passport Challenge, and we’ll see you there!