8701 E. Gregory Blvd.
KC, MO 64133
Nature Center: by appointment
Guided $2.50, Unguided $1.50
Cave Spring is a 36-acre urban nature center and historic area. Since it’s beginnings along the Santa Fe Trail, the Cave Spring area reflects the diversity of our Kansas City cultural and natural history. During the 1840’s, covered wagons traveling west passed by the area owned and farmed by the Barnes family. Jesse Barnes purchased the Cave Spring land and allowed wagon trains to camp here. His home was across Blue Ridge, in the area now known as Gregory Heights. His land was known as the ‘Barnes Inclosure’.
In 1874-1877, the property was owned by Solomon Young, the maternal grandfather of Harry S Truman. During this time, Harry Truman was a dirt farmer in Grandview. A Life Magazine article from 1945, about Truman’s life during his late 20’s (circa 1910), a photo caption reads “On a Missouri hayride, Farmer Truman… often picnicked with friends at Cave Spring in the prairies or on limestone ledges near Independence, Mo.” A standard dating custom was to take long hikes in the woods and it’s very likely that Harry and Bess spent time at Cave Spring. They were married in June, 1919.
1909 – 1913 The Daughters of the American Revolution marked the trail with pink granite markers all the way to Santa Fe. The Cave Spring marker is along Blue Ridge, about one-half block south of Gregory. The marker says ‘Cave Spring’ at the bottom and the DAR only titled the markers where actual trail campgrounds existed. In 1925, an dairy farm was located above the cave and the concrete enclosure outside the cave was a spring house where milk was stored in cans. The chimney above the cave is all that remained of the house after it burned in 1925.
Urban and Gladys Kroell then purchased the land in 1926 and opened ‘The Cave Spring Club’, a private country club. There was a nine hole golf course, cabins around one of the two lakes, boating, swimming, and fishing. During the 1930’s, the Cave Spring Club offered a respite from the city for golfers and their families. The Kroells’ son was drafted into the Navy for W.W.II and was MIA by 1943. Distraught, they closed the club. During and shortly after the war, the cabins were rented year-around to help in the housing shortage. The Kroells tried to reopen the club in 1948 but were unsuccessful.
The campground’s cave was forgotten for a number of years until 1948 when construction of Our Lady of Lourdes church at the corner of Gregory & Blue Ridge revealed its existence to a new generation. The construction job located a cave and spring underneath what is now the church parking lot. They diverted their spring and this impacted our spring as well. Exploration of the cave and its passages by KU scientists rated considerable newspaper coverage at the time.
In 1957, Cave Spring was sold to William Klein as speculation for the Milton Petroleum Co. He and his father intended to put a filling station on the property but neighborhood residents fought it. A period of general dormancy, disrepair, and neglect of the Cave Spring area followed the vandalizing of the summer cabins in the 1950’s. This condition prevailed until 1975.
In 1975, Sylvia Mooney moved next door to the park. With her persistence and love for nature and history, she was able to organize and energize a group of people to obtain grants for acquiring the Cave Spring land. The Cave Spring Association, a not-for-profit organization, was founded in 1975 to preserve the historic Santa Fe Trail area in its natural state for the use of the citizens of Jackson County, MO. The organization manages and maintains the William Klein Park and the Art Clark Memorial Nature Center. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
In the 1980’s, the park was named in memory of William M. Klein. The Cave Spring Interpretive Center was opened and the first wing of the building was named in memory of Art Clark. Art was a 1977 Raytown High School graduate and was a student of forestry at the University of Missouri when he died of leukemia. 1990, the pond was drained and restored and the National Guard re-built one of the bridges. The extension to the nature center was added which greatly improves our ability to serve youth groups and offer nature and historical displays. The two small garden areas near the entry to the park were created by the friends and family of Ann Harrison, a young Raytown girl whose life was taken suddenly.
There are many attractions at the park: a water garden, bird sanctuary, nature center, shelter house, butterfly garden, cave, rock climbing, waterfall area, ruins of 1920 cabins, Harrison memorial flower gardens, many animals, a pond, a Scout encampment and our Santa Fe Trail marker. Cave Spring park has over 6 miles of walking trails. The scenic trails are wood chipped for the nature hikers and some are paved for the handicapped. Our trails are open 365 days a years and sometimes are a real adventure.
The easily traveled hiking trails combined with the natural features of a cave and wildlife habitat pond allow many opportunities to pursue ecological studies. School children and adults visiting Cave Spring are introduced to the ecology of the Kansas City area through natural history and cultural history studies. Volunteers and staff of Cave Spring have developed a series of outdoor education programs that demonstrate Native American and pioneer skills and the historical and present day use of our natural resources.
Today, Cave Spring serves metropolitan Kansas City as an outdoor education facility. Guided hikes and educational opportunities are available for school field trips and adult and youth groups. “A naturalist’s heaven” is the way one visitor described the park. Over 74 different varieties of flowers have been identified. The prairie grasses, cattail marsh, meadows and other areas of natural growth offer a constantly changing opportunity for nature study. The park is one of the favorite day-trip excursion areas in the metropolitan Kansas City area for science and nature enthusiasts and nearly 8000 school kids and scouts each year.
After many years of submitting applications Cave Spring has been officially certified by the National Park Service as a site on the Santa Fe, Oregon & California National Historic Trails which cross the east section of the 40 acre park. This newly certified site will be a major asset in enhancing the Trails experience for today’s travelers and visitors. It is also the site of a SFTA Geotour cache.