The underground fleet

The underground fleet

Posted on Tuesday, January 28, 2020, by Hubert Heck

Climb aboard the underground fleet at Fantastic Caverns and explore the world beneath your feet. Touring Fantastic Caverns by Jeep drawn trams helps preserve the cave. America's Ride Thru Cave may not be inhabited by humans but the cave system does have a thriving ecology of small critters that call it home.

There is perhaps no more legendary vehicle on the American road - and off of it - than the Jeep. The rugged four-by-four that built a reputation for performance and reliability during World War II found civilian duty after the war, navigating the hills, forests, and highways of America. And a handful went undercover to become what may be the nations largest fleet of underground Jeep. These eight Jeep pull trams that carry visitors through Fantastic Caverns, just northwest of Springfield, MO.

The History of the Jeep

The Jeeps at Fantastic Caverns are descendants of those that earned their stripes on the battlefields of World War II. More than 600,000 Jeeps were built by Willys and Ford during the war. Developed for the military on the eve of the conflict, the Jeep got its name, so the story goes, from "general purpose" or GP. But the term "Jeep" had already been in the vocabulary of Army slang for years, according to one account.

Citing a 1941 Army report, Jim Allen wrote in Fourwheeler magazine that the word "Jeep" was used by Army mechanics as early as World War I to refer to any new motor vehicle that was brought in for testing. "Jeep" was also derogatory for a new recruit. The name was even given to a comic strip character - Eugene the Magical Jeep, a small, endearing, doglike creature who had mysterious powers and first appeared in "Popeye" comics in 1936.

Jeep drawn tram on a snowy day

Taking a cave tour by Jeep today

The Jeep has come a long way - literally - since those days, and the fleet at Fantastic Caverns is no exception. Collectively, the vehicles that ferry visitors through the cave have logged thousands of miles. It's been slow going, too. The cave Jeep's average speed is just under one mile an hour - it takes about 55 minutes to complete the leisurely one-mile cave tour. The odometer on each vehicle clicks an average of just 150 times each year.

Unlike their military and civilian cousins, these Jeeps don’t spend much time contending with mud, snow, ice or blazing summer heat. The temperature in the cave, which is open all year, hovers around a mild 60 degrees during all seasons.

Preserving their historic reputation as a workhouse, the Jeep, provides an innovative way to see one of the country's most accessible tourist attractions. There's no walking necessary, so the tour is ideal for families with small children, older folks and people with physical limitations.

Headlights on the Jeep, are fully functional, but they're seldom needed. The entire tour route through the cave is brightly lit so visitors can see the stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and other formations that took countless generations to form.

kids in Jeep drawn tram at cave exit

The Underground Fleet at Fantastic Caverns

The Jeep-drawn trams are a less invasive way for guests to see the cave. The vehicles' eight wheels on the cave floor are far less disruptive than hundreds of walking feet. The Jeep, also run on propane, a cleaner-burning fuel. Taking care of the environment is important to the owners of Fantastic Caverns. Water quality is closely moni­tored - its purity is vital to wildlife, including the tiny, rare, blind cavefish - that inhabit the underground ecosystem. Great care is also taken to protect the cave's ancient, irreplaceable formations from damage.

Jeep drawn tram by Cave Coral

Latest Blog Posts

The latest about our Missouri cave, and other Fantastic Caverns news.

Ozarks Cave Explorer's Club
Travel and tourism are inextricably part of the fabric of the Ozarks’ culture and economy. And caves have been a part of the tourism industry in the Ozarks for a very long time. Find a list of caves in Missouri and Arkansas participating in the Missouri Caves Association’s Ozarks Cave Explorer Passport Program.
Build Your Own Terrarium and Monitor Water Quality
Stormwater run-off can easily pick up pollutants and cause erosion. Plants and trees help filter stormwater run-off and prevent erosion. The water flowing through the lower levels of Fantastic Caverns, began as stormwater on the surface. Create your own terrariums and monitor water quality.
Create Your Own Cave Confections
Create your own cave treats following these simple recipes. Caves provide habitats for unique species. Make your own edible cave habitats in the form of hollow meringue cookies or dessert rolls.
Cave and Karst Picture Finds
Find cave animals in these photos. The karst terrain of the Ozarks provides habitat for unique life. There is a very delicate ecosystem beneath our feet.
Create Your Own Aquifer in a Cup
Create your own miniature aquifer in a cup. The limestone present in the Ozarks has cracks and voids that allow water to permeate and pass through it. Water flowing through the limestone passages of Fantastic Caverns, began as rainwater.
Create Your Own Crystals
You can easily grow your own crystals using sugar, salt or alum. Many crystals are minerals, and occur naturally. Minerals are the building blocks of rocks, like the limestone of Fantastic Caverns.
Cave and Karst Word Searches
Find words related to caves and cave life in these fun Cave and Karst Word Searches. Missouri is known as the Cave State, boasting more than 7,500 caves and counting.
Make Your Own Limestone Fossil Sugar Cookies
You can find fossilized remains of ancient creatures within the limestone of Fantastic Caverns. Create your own limestone-inspired fossils in the form of sugar cookies.
Create Your Own Cave in a Cup
Create your own cave. As water flows beneath the Earth's surface it dissolves and erodes the rock, forming the cavities that become caves.
Health and Safety at Fantastic Caverns
The health and safety of our guests are top of mind as we continue to offer our memorable ride through cave experiences. We have increased the frequency of our everyday health and safety protocols and procedures, and we are taking precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy.
America's ride thru cave
Missouri caves are well known as the most beautiful caves to see in North America and Fantastic Caverns ranks #1 by many. It's America's favorite ride-through cave attraction and uses their signature red Jeeps to drive you around through the cave.
Fantastic Caverns' Adventure Tour offers enrichment opportunities
Cub Scouts and participants of a new gifted outreach project got a sneak-peek of the upcoming art, science and history program coming to Fantastic Caverns called Adventure Tour. This was an opportunity for enrichment for the kids, and allowed the team at Fantastic Caverns to practice the program before its launch.
Phone: 417-833-2010
Fax: (417) 833-2042
Fantastic Caverns
4872 N Farm Rd 125
Springfield, MO 65803
Trip Adviser certificate of excellence for Fantastic Caverns