By Mitch Shields
Photos Courtesy of Bridal Cave
Spring is once again just around the corner. Warmer thoughts of boating and water recreation and relaxation will become the focus of our thoughts. For many of us that will mean our attention will turn toward the waters of the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks. But did you know just beyond water and the 1500 miles of winding shoreline of the Lake of the Ozarks, scattered in the rolling Ozark hills there are hidden gems just below the surface. I am referring to the nearly 300 wild caves that are scattered in the three counties of Camden, Miller and Morgan. One of the most impressive is Bridal Cave. Long before vacationers would flock to this area…in fact as far back as 8,000 B.C. Native Americans were visiting the hills overlooking the Niangua Valley and enjoying the shelter and beauty of what would be called Bridal Cave.
Fast forward to present days, Bridal Cave is open year-round with guided, hour long tours 362 days of the year, (weather permitting). The cave is truly a speleological wonder, with room after room of incredible mineral deposits. There are fragile soda straw formation as well as enormous draperies and towering columns. In fact Bridal Cave boasts more onyx formations than other known cave or cavern. On your hour long tour you will explore a lake inside the cavern know as “Mystery Lake”, a name given to it by the spelunkers that discovered it in 1981. With only one known entrance into the cave, divers were baffled to explain how wooden debris from what appears to be a raft or a possible scaffold made its way to the bottom of the lake.
Breathtaking natural features obviously abound within Bridal Cave but another amazing feature about the cave is the fact that in 2014 Glamour Magazine named Bridal Cave one of the “Top 10 Most Unique Wedding Venues in America”. However, the history of weddings at Bridal Cave goes back much farther than that. Folklore tells of an Osage Native American legend of Conwee, the son of an Osage Indian chief. Conwee fell in love with Wasena the daughter of the chief from a nearby rival tribe. Legend says that Conwee kidnapped Wasena to take her as his bride. Shortly after capturing Wasena, Conwee fled with his reluctant bride and they stopped briefly to seek shelter in Bridal Cave. While at the cave, Wasena was able to escape and flee. Conwee, was said to have chased after and nearly recaptured her. The chase would stop at a nearby bluff where Wasena would throw herself to her death over the nearly 200 foot bluff overlooking the Niangua Valley. That place is known today as Lovers Leap. While Conwee and Wasena’s story ended tragically, there is another chapter to the story. It ends where Bridal Cave gets its’ name. Wasena had a companion Irona who would later marry Conwee’s brother Prince Buffalo in the Bridal Chapel a beautiful stalactite filled room near the entrance of Bridal Cave.
The first actual recorded wedding took place at the cave in 1949. Since then Bridal Cave has performed more than 3,500 weddings and vow renewals inside the cave. Today weddings are performed year-round inside Bridal Cave’s stunning stalactite adorned Bridal Chapel located in the Pavilion which overlooks the Lake of the Ozarks. February with Valentine’s Day is busy with weddings and vow renewals at Bridal Cave. Each year Bridal Cave will host a special day of vow renewals where over 250 couples will come to renew their vows. This year the cave will host it’s Valentine’s Vow Renewal Day on February 11. This is a free-of-charge service offered to couples to stop by between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to renew their vows. Renewing couples will receive an 8×10 color portrait and a lifetime pass to the cave along with a goodie bag with items donated from area merchants. All for free. All they ask is for couples to bring some canned food items for the local food bank. Couples wishing to schedule a regular wedding service can do so year-round. There are a number of reasonably priced packages available. For more information on wedding ceremonies at the cave, please contact the Wedding Reservations Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 573-346-2676 or at the caves website Bridalcave.com