Missouri’s state park system, which on multiple occasions has been ranked as one of the top four state park systems in the nation, contains 91 state parks and historic sites. West Plains is fortunate to be close to four state parks.
- Formed 10,000 years ago
- Cave system with collapsed roof
Known as Missouri’s “Little Grand Canyon,” Grand Gulf State Park is breathtaking. Grand Gulf is a collapsed dolomite cave system that stretches about three-quarters of a mile between 130-foot-high walls. One can view Grand Gulf from trails on top or venture down to the floor to meander under a natural bridge which spans 250 feet with a 75-foot opening.
Water from Brussell Branch drains into Grand Gulf where it flows under the natural bridge before entering the mouth of an underground cave system. It then travels 9 miles underground and re-emerges at Mammoth Spring in Arkansas.
One of the earliest writings of exploring the area was from Luella Agnes Owen. From her book “Cave Regions of the Ozarks and Black Hills” (1898), she recounted her explorations of Grand Gulf including seeing numerous, small, eyeless fish that were pure white. In the 1920s, a severe storm washed many downed trees and other debris into the gulf, filling the cave.
Today, heavy rains fill the gulf to depths exceeding 100 feet. The water slowly drains out over a period of several weeks.
In 1971, Grand Gulf was designated a National Natural Landmark, and in 1984, the property became a Missouri State Park.
25 miles From West Plains
Take Highway 63 south toward Thayer. At Koshkonong, turn right on F Highway. After crossing the railroad tracks, turn left on County Road 377. Stay on CR 377 for 3.75 miles. This will be a dirt road. At W Highway, turn right. The entrance to Grand Gulf will be on the right in less than a half mile.