Home to Endangered Blind Cavefish, Bristly Cave Crayfish, the Arkansas Darter and Grotto Salamanders
Over 100 years ago, a visiting botanist named Ruth Hoppin found blind cave fish and blind crayfish in the entrance passage of Sarcoxie Cave and Spring. Despite the long ago discovery, very little was known about the cave until recent years, when the Missouri Caves & Karst Conservancy (MCKC) became involved in the acquisition, protection and study of the cave.
MCKC – ORLT Cave Management Partnership
The MCKC provided a $1,000 grant to the ORLT to assist in purchasing the 3-acre tract west of the Sarcoxie town square that not only includes the cave, but also a beautiful spring pond.
Since April 1997, the MCKC has been helping the Ozark Regional Land Trust (ORLT) manage the cave in the town of Sarcoxie in eastern Jasper County in southwest Missouri and protect the habitat of two endangered fish species in Sarcoxie Cave.
Prior to the gating of the cave, the entrance remained nearly sealed due to mud and cobble falling from the bluff above the cave.
A Unique Stainless Steel Gate Protects the Cave Entrance
In the spring of 1998, independent caver Richard Thompson was commissioned to install a one-of-a-kind stainless steel gate at the cave entrance to keep unauthorized human traffic out of the cave. The gate uses a unique swiveling bar connected to a “boot” in a concrete “foot.” Because it consists of stainless steel, the gate requires little or no maintenance.
Very Limited Cave Access
The cave entrance was quite a different story. In the winter of 2001, a large ledge at the entrance area collapsed due to frost wedging, effectively sealing the entrance again. The MCKC along with local caving volunteers removed the fallen rock the following summer so that authorized access to the cave was again possible. Since the completion of a cave survey in 2003, the only visits into the cave have been those Missouri Department of Conservation employees have made to monitor the water quality.
Jon Beard surveyed the cave to approximately 900 feet, roughly half of which is the low and awkward mainstream passage. The average person can stand up in only two places in this torturous cave that only its inhabitants could love.
Rare and Endangered Species Live Here
In what most people would consider a very unforgiving, inhospitable environment, the Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae) and the Arkansas darter (Etheostoma cragini) find suitable living quarters. Both these endangered fish species, found in very few places, are only 1.5 to 2 inches long when fully grown.
Add the bristly cave crayfish (Cambarus setosus) and the grotto salamander (Eurycea spelaeus) to the cave’s inhabitants and you have a very special cave in a small urban environment!
A white crayfish with very primitive eyes, the bristly crayfish’s known numbers continue to decline in most caves and the grotto salamander is rare.
Sarcoxie Cave is managed as a protected environment for these endangered and cave-adapted species that are unique to small portions of the Ozarks. The Ozark Regional Land Trust, MCKC and the Missouri Department of Conservation share in the management duties, watching over this very special little cave and its picturesque spring branch.