Don Marsan from Marsan Kayak and Canoe Tours Crystal City Underground kayaking Missouri

If you love adventure, nature, kayaking, and caves you can combine all of those into one fantastically unique cave kayaking activity at Crystal City Underground in Crystal City Missouri.

This underground lake is located less than an hour south of St. Louis, it’s one of Missouri’s best kept secrets, and an experience worthy of a spot near the top of any bucket list!

Missouri is known as the cave state because it boasts almost 6,400 beautiful caves! Let’s explore this one!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION about booking this activity: If you don’t get a real person that doesn’t answer the phone please leave a message and we will get back to you. PLEASE please do not call Crystal City Underground, we are not affiliated with them. Please be patient we will call you. see contact information for Marsan Kayaking under “how to book a tour.”

Cave kayaking at Crystal City Cave with Crystal City underground kayak tour

This adventure can only be undertaken with a guide. Don with Marsan Kayak and Canoe tours will guide you deep into the depths of this enormous cave, one of the largest cave formations in Missouri.

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. 

crystal city underground reviews, a first hand account

Don’s job (and what a job he has!) is to guide you through a seemingly never-ending labyrinth, down to an eventual depth of 400 feet underground. You’ll experience 2.5 hours of unadulterated joy on this expansive subterranean 150-acre lake. Don won’t cut you any slack, but he’s a great guide and knows this cave!

Grab a paddle and let’s get to exploring Crystal City Cave! The perfect place for an adventure!

You paddle at a leisurely pace explore all of the nooks and crannies of this extensive cave system while getting informative commentary all the while from Don Marsan.

kayaks at Crystal City Undergound Marsan kayaking tours  Missouri
kayak tours include the use of a kayak, or bring your own boat
Cave Kayaking in Missouri at Crystal City Underground Marsan Kayaking tours Missouri
you’ll wind your way through the underground caverns
Marsan Kayak and Canoe cave kayaking tours Crystal City Underground Missouri
your tour guide Don knows this cave inside and out

My husband and I after making it out on the other side of the Squeeze Box (see the “tight spaces” section below.) Notice he’s smiling…notice I look as if I just barely escaped with my life….

Angie Kunze We're Not in Kansas Anymore kayaking at Crystal City Underground Cave Missouri tight spaces on the tour called the squeeze box
me and the husband enjoying our cave boat tour in this excellent place!

And just like that, we’re back to the wide open spaces!

and then back in we go….

tight spaces kayaking crystal City underground cave kayaking tours in Missouri

Cave kayaking Missouri! book a tour!

Don Marsan from Marsan Kayak and Canoe Tours Crystal City Underground kayaking Missouri
Crystal City Underground Mo Cave tours

Gilligan’s Island was my favorite part of the cave. There’s a large hole in the roof of the cave where daylight shines through and it is magnificent! There’s a little trickle of water and you’ll see some daylight, particularly pretty on a sunny day!

Gilligan's Island cave opening crystal city underground cave kayaking missouri adventure cave inspiration
Gilligan’s Island: one of the best places in Crystal City Underground Cave, Missouri
Gilligan's Island cave opening crystal city underground cave kayaking missouri adventure cave inspiration
some of the most beautiful scenery : crystal city cave kayaking adventure Missouri

Crystal City Cave video

It can be hard to get the real feel of a place through pictures. Here are 3 short video clips from inside Crystal City Underground.

Cave Kayaking Video Crystal City Cave: Notice it’s an easy paddle, there are no ferocious currents here!d

How to book a tour

To book a Crystal City Underground kayak tour, you’ll need to book with Marsan Kayak & Canoe Tours direct. As of publication, Marsan Kayaks does not have a website. Just give Don a call to schedule your tour. Don Marsan at 636-208-5026. This has become a popular destination and so they get a lot of calls. You will likely need to leave a message. Calls are returned Monday-Friday from 4:00-8:00 p.m. Deposit required on day of reservation.

Tour times: (Updated my Marsan Tours on 10/24/22)

Wednesday – Friday: noon

Saturday & Sunday: 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

how much does it cost?

The cost to go cave kayaking at Crystal City Cave is, as of the date of publication, $45 per person, CASH OR CREDIT CARD, deposit required on day of reservation. Prices are always subject to change. Ask Don for the current rate.

Ask about the group rate: there may be a discount if your group has 8 people or more.

how to get to Crystal City Cave

My Google maps GPS took us right there. (yay! good job Google!)

Address: 700 Crystal Ave, Crystal City, MO 63019 (this is where you turn down the gravel road, look for the Marsan Kayak sign)

coordinates to the cave: 38.214473638997625, -90.36963446473482

the gravel drive: directions to Crystal City Underground Cave Marsan Kayak and Canoe
Google streets shot of the gravel drive off of Crystal Avenue

or you can use the instructions for reaching Crystal City Underground from their website:

These are the only good directions according to them: “Go to 61/67 and Bailey Road in Crystal City. Turn East. At the 3rd stop sign turn Right on Mississippi Ave and follow the signs to the city dump. Right before the dump, turn left onto the gravel road. It will take you to Crystal City Underground. Cross the tressle bridge and through the tunnel. You are there.


Crystal City Underground Parking

Now don’t panic if it seems like you have arrived at the city dump. It has a rough exterior, but you’re in the right spot! And yes, you MUST drive over the wooden bridge…yikes! continue driving through the small cave. Don was waiting on us on the other side. Go slow, your car will thank you for it.

about the kayaking tour

experience level for this cave kayaking tour:

The tour is suitable for all ability levels and no prior experience is required. Don says he has had people take the tour who have never been in a kayak. I would recommend that you go at least once prior to taking this tour. You will probably enjoy yourself more if you already have a feel for the kayak.

what to bring:

Nothing much is required. Marsan Canoe and Kayak will provide gloves (2 sets in case you get one set wet,) a life jacket, a head lamp, kayak and paddle. You could bring your own gloves, head lamp and life jacket.

what to wear:

Cool temperatures in the Underground? It’s 61 degrees in the cave, year-round. I wore long pants (Don will give you a trash bag to put over your legs to keep your pants more-or less dry). I also wore waterproof hiking boots and waterproof neoprene socks. My feet never got wet, so just wear a pair of comfortable shoes.

I wore a light jacket for the 1st half of the trip and added a fleece jacket over the top about half-way through. Next trip I would wear something under my pants for warmth and maybe a second pair of socks. By the end my legs and feet were a bit chilly.


Nope, no potty breaks. Go before you leave, and don’t drink a lot leading up to your tour because you will have to hold it for 2.5 hours. There is a porta potty in the cave for use before or after the tour.

when to go:

This is a year round activity. Since the cave is a constant 61 degrees it would be a perfect winter activity since it’s technically indoors. From what I ascertained, there are times when the cave is closed to kayakers due to flooding, maybe mid-April through sometime in June or July?

Don did mention that in winter there is a mist over the water, so that would add a certain ambiance.

BUT….Time of day MAY matter:

The early tour is a great idea if you are looking for a more personalized experience. We chose the early tour. We were a group of 4, and 3 other people joined us on the tour. It felt as if we were getting a personalized tour of the cave, simply amazing. The afternoon tour consisted of over 30 people. If you’d prefer a small tour, you might shoot for the first tour of the day…no guarantees but it’s worth a shot!

tight spaces:

Let me start by saying I am extremely claustrophobic. The majority of the cave is wide open. However, there are some low spots. As you can see in some of the photos, we put the paddles down and moved along with our hands at times. A little outside of my comfort level but nothing I couldn’t deal with.

The Squeeze Box

IF you are uncomfortable with tight spaces (or they cause you all out panic like they do me) you should be aware of what they have dubbed The Squeeze Box. You will come to a spot where the ceiling of the cave gets very low. You will be instructed to lay back in your kayak (WAY back) and Don will escort you for a distance that is about the width of a cave column.

Let your imagination go and picture yourself a real trail blazer, exploring a cave for the first time. For a few minutes imagine what it would be like to explore the small recesses of a cave, anticipating some new discovery just on the other side of that tight “squeeze.” So….I didn’t die, and I didn’t cry either, but I’ll stick to wide open spaces from here on out!

Not ready to face those fears, but still want to go?

If you really don’t think you are up for that type of fun, I would discuss it with Don before you book your tour. I think you may be able to talk him into letting you skip the Squeeze Box.

a few photos of me and my crew having the time of our lives!

Angie Kunze, We're Not in Kansas Anymore fun for the whole family in Missouri collage at Crystal City Underground Cave Kayaking tours
photo galleries: of one of our best adventures to date!

Crystal City Underground is one of the few places to cave kayak in the US! It’s natural beauty makes it an awesome place to spend a few hours. We drove 6 hours for this tour and it was honestly worth the drive! Schedule a tour now!

Other fun activities at Crystal City Caverns

Note: at last check (1/28/23) the sports complex was still closed due to flood damage. Always check the website before heading out. Some activities may not be available.

Crystal City Underground is open for Special events only: Disc Golf and Pole Vaulting are not available at this time.

where to stay

Looking for hotel accommodations?

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Festus-South St. Louis, an IHG Hotel. It’s just 3 miles from the cave and has a 9.0 user review rating!

book it here on!

other must see and do things in the great state of Missouri:

Nature Lovers: check out these great hiking options in southern Missouri:

Ha Ha Tonka State Park: recommended hiking trails

Pickle Springs Natural Area hiking Trail

Travel Resources

Check out my Travel Resources page to learn how to get the best deals on airfare, rental cars, accommodations, language learning resources and more! 

Want to hear more about my travels around Missouri and the rest of our amazing planet? You may be interested in my Missouri page. Be sure to submit your email address to my subscriber sign up at the end of the page to be the first to know when a new blog publishes!

You might also enjoy:


    1. Jessica, I am unsure if there is a weight limit when using the kayaks provided my Marsan Kayak and Canoe. My husband is about 240 but you’ll want to touch base with Don (636) 208-5026 with specific questions about the Crystal City Cave Kayaking tour in Missouri. Thanks and I hope you enjoy your cave kayaking tour!

  1. Hey there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

    1. I am thrilled to hear that I have been able to help with your kayaking the underground lake at Crystal City Cave experience. I hope that Don at Marsan Kayak and Canoe tours was able to assist you with all of your cave kayaking needs in the great state of Missouri! Thank you so much for your kind comments. -We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

  2. This is so amazing!!! Sounds like a bucket list experience. And even though you are claustrophobic you weren’t scared by the ambience! I guess I have one more reason to visit Missouri. Thank you for sharing !

    1. I was definitely able to add the experience of kayaking the underground lake at Crystal City Cave to the “accomplished” column on my bucket list! Such a cool experience!

  3. This sounds like a super fun adventure at Crystal City Cave. I love that it is something different and unique. Thanks for sharing all the tips especially for getting through the Squeeze Box.

    1. Oh yes, the Squeeze Box. Looking back I’m glad that I had the experience. I do feel accomplished each time I’m able to stare down one of my fears. It is however nice to know that if you just can’t do tight spaces that Don Marsan with Marsan Kayak and Canoe tours has your covered. He can be a bit ruthless ha ha, but I’ve given you the inside scoop, you CAN skip the tight spots 😉 -Angie, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

  4. Wow this looks epic! My bucket list for the States keeps getting bigger and bigger. Thanks heaps for sharing, so glad I came across this guide

  5. What a great tour! I’m an avid kayaker (though not in caves or in 61 degree cold) and this looks like it would be the perfect thing to do.

    1. This was my first time kayaking in a cave but the first time I saw photos on Facebook of Crystal City Underground cave, and people kayaking there I know I had to do it! It was definitely a perfect day!

  6. This looks so cool! I did a longtail boat tour through a cave once, but kayaking sounds like much more fun/more of an adventure. I’d be a little nervous to try the “squeeze box” too!

    1. I’m just obsessed with caves (I like dark places, cool places, mysterious places) so I’d love to do the longtail boat tour. We were scheduled to take a boat tour through a cave in France but had to cancel due to COVID darn it! Someday!

    1. Yes, Crystal City Cave is just a hop skip and a jump away from St. Louis! I don’t get over that way often but I’d love to do the Marsan Cave tour again sometime. In addition to the Pickle Springs trail over there, there are some other trails I’d like to check out one of these days. Thanks for the comment! -Angie Kunze, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

  7. Hi everyone, Marsan Kayaking is still open and going strong. We have changed it up a bit. We offer kayaking wed-fri at noon, and on the weekends still at 10am and at 2pm. We have also changed our phone calling system. We only return phone calls from 4-8pm Mon-fri. We take cash and credit cards also.

    Hi everyone, Marsan Kayaking is now going to start taking deposits the day of the reservation. We are starting it because we have had a lot of no shows and it has hurt our business. We hope everyone will understand our decision.

    1. Marsan Kayaking, thank you for the update on reserving this fabulous activity! I will be glad to update the information in this article and hope you will keep me in mind if you make more changes. Best regards, Angie Kunze, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

  8. Hi this is Marsan Kayaking again. If you dont get a real person that doesn’t answer the phone at 636-208-5026 please leave a message and we will get back to you. PLEASE please do not call Crystal City Underground, we are not affilated with them. Please be patient we will call you.

    1. Thank you again for the the update Marsan Kayaking. I am going to add a notice to the top of this article and hopefully that way we can make people aware of this information. -Angie Kunze, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

    1. Jamie. Thank you for your question but unfortunately I am unsure. They do have a lot of kayaks on site so I am assuming that they do but I would try and contact Marsan at 636-208-5026 to confirm. Enjoy your trip!

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *