Exploration of "Morris' Cave" in central Missouri

On July 18, 1998, with the assistance of a friend acting as sherpa, I explored Morris' Cave.

Exploration began at about 9am.

The cave opening is at the bottom of a sinkhole, approximately oval shaped, 200 feet x 100 feet. The opening has apparently changed shape at least once in the six years since it was discovered/opened.

Previous reports had a serpentine tunnel going to the left. The current tunnel consists of a tiny crawl space at roughly a right angle to the opening, heading to the right.
There is a small boulder blocking the passage, requiring the caver to turn on his left side to pass.

Any smaller and the passage would be too small to traverse.

About six feet past the boulder, the caver can then begin to see the muddy slope, the water and the "big room."
The muddy slope is littered with rocks and small boulders, none of which have anything holding them in place except for the mud. So any attempt to use one as a foot hold resulted in sending the rock down into the water.

Moving around was nothing more than wallowing.

There were no horizontal areas so no tarp could be used as a staging area.

All staging was done at the waters edge primarily so that water could be used to clean mud off the equipment prior to assembly.

The muddy slope covered about 180 degrees of area, as viewed from above. The Big Room is about 60 feet Wide. Depth of the water in the Big Room ranges from 12 to 20 feet. The room extends approximately 120 feet to a small tunnel at the far end. If you know the tunnel is there, you can see it from the muddy slope, but I didn't realize it was a tunnel until I swam about halfway into the Big Room. Mud covered virtually all surfaces except for the ceiling.
The tunnel ceiling is lower than the Big Room, providing about 2-3 feet of air space above the water level.

Width of the tunnel is about 3-4 feet.

Shortly after entering the tunnel, it veers slightly to the right.

At the end of the tunnel, the air space portion of the tunnel consists of straight up and down walls on both left and right sides, and the ceiling is roughly a flattened dome shape.

Near the top of the end-wall is a horizontal crevasse running about the width of the tunnel. Since mud exists around this opening but not
in it, I surmise this is one way for the water to exit this tunnel when it reaches that height.

Investigation under water revealed that there is an undercut just below the water level on all sides of the tunnel. This undercut is about 2 feet "deep".

Since water visibility was only about 6 inches, investigation of all the walls was difficult, mostly done with fingertips. The wall from water surface to the bottom was checked closely from the tunnel end to 40 feet back on both walls, and at the tunnel end. Floor depth varied from 12 to 20 feet. The mud at the bottom of the tunnel was very thick: I forced my hand as far as it would go into the mud without touching rock.

After approximately 85 feet x 15 feet of rock wall was investigated at and around the end of the tunnel, I was too cold to continue exploration. At that point I proceeded to cut my line and survey out. In-water time was approximately 60 minutes.

After wrestling the gear and myself out of the cave, the time was approximately 6pm. Hauling the gear out of the sinkhole required more effort, but took fewer trips.

The following comment is pure supposition: It seems the mud inside the cave was "fresh" and matched the mud just outside the entrance. It appears that, if there had been at one time a continuing tunnel of any significance in the cave, it has since been clogged with rocks, boulders and debris, and sealed by the new inflow of mud. With the visibility at 6 inches (when not disturbed), and absolutely no indication of any flow whatsoever at any place in the cave, it seems to be a "deadend" cave. Most of the formations on the ceiling of the cave indicated it was "new", but the formative process is on-going as there was an active drip-drip-drip throughout the big room (not so much in the tunnel).

Robert Laird
July 21, 1998