Park Plans

at Graham Cave State Park

Conceptual Development Plan
December 2007

Established:  1964
Location: Montgomery County
Size: 386.13 acres


The primary mission of Graham Cave State Park is to preserve and interpret its archaeological, natural and cultural features of which Graham Cave and Graham Cave Glades Natural Area are preeminent.  It is also a goal to provide recreation opportunities consistent with these resources.


The division's mission is threefold, to preserve and interpret significant natural landscapes, to preserve and interpret significant cultural landmarks and to provide healthy and enjoyable outdoor recreation.  Within Missouri's state park system are a few examples of facilities that contain strong representation of all three of the mission components; most, however, contain resources of such a nature that dictate greater prominence of one mission component over another, whether natural, cultural or recreational.  Graham Cave State Park is one of those unique few that truly meet each of the three mission elements.

Dominant among the resources protected by the park is Graham Cave, an archaeological repository contributing extensive knowledge regarding early man's history in the New World and pushing back the date of known occupation by many thousand years.  As a result of these important archaeological findings, Graham Cave was given National Historic Landmark status in 1961, the first archaeological site in the United States to be accorded that status.  Other archaeological sites are also located within the park's boundaries.  The presence of these and the significance of Graham Cave precipitated the area being designated a state park in 1964, becoming the first state park in Missouri to be set aside solely for the protection of its archaeological resources.  The cave itself was subsequently placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

Closely associated with and responsible for the presence of its cultural resources are the park's natural resources.  Graham Cave, the Loutre River and the bluffs, seasonal waterfalls and glades associated with the geology of the park contributed to the appeal of the area as an occupation site, both by early man and by later pioneers such as the Boone family.  The sandstone and dolomite composition of Graham Cave is further represented in the sandstone and dolomite glades located within the park.  The presence of both these glade types, many found side by side, has contributed to the rich diversity of plant life within the park, resulting in 82 acres within the park being designated Graham Cave Glades Natural Area.

In addition to Graham Cave State Park's noteworthy cultural and natural resources, the park's recreational appeal is enhanced by its proximity to Interstate 70 (I-70).  Easy access from the interstate and its central location between two major metropolitan areas, Columbia and St. Louis, make the park a favorite with campers.  In fact, surveys indicate a clear delineation of users along the I-70 corridor, from Kansas City to St. Louis.  Day-use visitors frequent the park's trails, picnic areas and river access.


Because of Graham Cave State Park's significant resources and special designations, several development constraints exist.  Approximately 132 acres have been designated as the Graham Cave National Historic Landmark.  Additionally, Graham Cave Glades Natural Area encompasses 82 acres.  Although both these areas overlap and comprise most of the same landscape, their special status still accounts for over a third of an area within the park in which new development cannot occur.  In addition, much of the park is also managed as a special ecological stewardship area.  While development in this area is not officially excluded, prescribed burning and other management tools are employed to administer the area.  It was the consensus of the planning team that any proposed development should be sensitive to and withhold from encroaching into the special ecological stewardship area.  The existence within the park of a federally listed endangered species, Trifolium stoloniferum (running buffalo clover), reinforces the need for sensitivity.

An additional development constraint exists as a consequence of the park's proximity to I-70.  The interstate acts as a physical barrier, precluding the ability for the park to expand its southern boundary or to propose additional development adjacent to the interstate.  Additionally, proposed improvements to I-70 further act as limitations to development within the park.  The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has issued its final Environmental Assessment (EA) with the selected alternative for improvements to I-70 in the Mineola Hill area, including Graham Cave State Park, the Graham farmstead, and the Loutre River valley.  MoDOT's selected alternative proposes to use a series of retaining walls and a 2:1 side slope (rather than the standard 6:1) with guard rails to ensure no additional right-of-way will be required from the park.  The 2:1 side slope and extensive use of retaining walls may significantly decrease the vegetative buffer between the interstate and adjacent day-use area, with the subsequent potential for increased noise levels.  For this reason, no additional development was proposed for the lower day-use area.


  • Provide recreational and public use facilities that are consistent with the preservation of the cultural and natural resources and the mission of the park and that do not exceed the capacity of the land or the resources to sustain these activities.
  • Provide adequate visitor orientation and interpretive facilities to enhance the public's understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the resources of the park.
  • Provide adequate operational, administrative and maintenance support facilities to protect, secure and maintain the resources of the Graham Cave/Katy Complex. Graham Cave State Park administers approximately 55 miles of Katy Trail State Park, from Matson to Portland.
  • Identify potential acquisition units that further the mission of the park, support the operation and maintenance of the Graham Cave/Katy Complex, buffer the park from encroaching development, enhance the recreational amenities, and provide greater protection to the cultural and natural resources surrounding the park.


Enhance the campground experience

The size, topography and resources of Graham Cave necessitated the original development of the current campground at its present location on a ridge; however, this placement resulted in campsites with limitations, primarily in length and width of pads and in several sites that aren't level.  Pad dimensions, in particular, are an issue as RVs become increasingly longer and sport an increasing number of slide-outs and other outdoor living accoutrements.  Additionally, the current location precludes the ability for the campground to expand.

The planning team discussed relocating the campground and developing it into a travel camp, given the park's proximity to I-70 and its status as the only park immediately accessible from an interstate.  Additionally, the ZIP code distribution map of survey respondents from the Phase I survey shows a clear delineation of users along the I-70 corridor, providing further justification for this proposal.  However, it was the consensus of the team that a travel camp currently does not fit within the mission of the park and would compete too greatly with the two private campsites near the park, Kan-Do and Lazy Days.  At some later date, however, should future use and demand dictate, the potential to develop a travel camp in Acquisition Unit 5 should be reevaluated.

Another of the initial proposals for the park was to eliminate the campground altogether; however, based on public input, it was determined that doing away with camping was not a feasible alternative.  Rather than eliminating the campground and designating Graham Cave State Park as a day-use facility, the campground will remain in its existing location with some modifications:

  • Longer, more level RV pads and more space between campsites will be provided.  This will necessitate reducing the number of campsites, by six to ten sites.
  • The ratio of electric to basic sites will be changed, which is currently 18 electric to 34 basic, by increasing the number of electric sites and decreasing the number of basic sites.  Additionally, the electric sites will be upgraded to current standards.
  • Dump station access will be improved.
  • A group shelter for camper rental will be provided.
  • It should be noted that the special ecological stewardship area boundary has been extended to the western side of the campground to incorporate a glade and more of the Loutre River watershed.  Any improvements to the campground must stay within the existing footprint to prevent encroachment into the special ecological stewardship area.

In addition to potentially developing a travel camp in Acquisition Unit 5, future use and demand may dictate the relocation of the existing campground, since expanding the campground in its present location isn’t feasible.  Should future demand suggest the need for an expanded campground and should Acquisition Unit 5 ever be made available, the potential for relocating the campground to this area will be evaluated.  In the event the campground is relocated, the potential to use existing infrastructure and develop camper cabins and/or primitive walk-in campsites in the existing campground should also be reviewed.  In the interim, however, implementing the proposed modifications to the existing campground is a high priority and one that would best serve the public in the immediate timeframe.

Expand the upper day use area

A picnic shelter will be constructed in the upper day-use area, to be used for rental and interpretive programs.  Additionally, the shelter will help facilitate use of the upper day-use area as a staging area for school groups.  Modern restroom facilities and a water fountain should be included.  Although parking will need to be expanded in the upper day-use area to accommodate shelter usage, any new development needs to stay within the existing footprint of the day-use area.  This will prevent encroachment into the special ecological stewardship area boundary west of the day-use area, and the national historic landmark boundary across the road east of the day-use area.  Therefore, a three-bay picnic shelter may be the maximum size allowable in order to ensure adequate parking in this limited space.  Typically, it is assumed that a three-bay picnic shelter can accommodate between 30 and 40 users, and would require between 18 and 20 parking spaces.

Maintain visitor contact station in existing location

The visitor contact station should be kept in its existing location to maintain the "initial contact" in close proximity to the upper day-use area.  This will facilitate use of the upper day-use area as interpretive staging and maintain ease of access to the cave and trails.  Although the location of the contact station will remain the same, use, size, configuration, etc., may change dependent upon what interpretive and administrative needs are identified in the Interpretation and Operations plans.

Relocate service complex

In order to eliminate congestion and provide the much needed storage space that is required to maintain and operate the Graham/Katy Complex, the service area should be relocated to a suitable area.  Acquisition Unit 4 should be reviewed for suitability of relocating the service area.

Provide seasonal housing

The existing residence on the recently acquired property south of Hwy. TT should be reviewed for feasibility of either permanently or temporarily designating it for seasonal housing, depending on a cost estimate for renovations.  Should Acquisition Unit 4 ever be acquired and the facility manager's residence be relocated to the residence on Acquisition Unit 4, the existing manager's residence in the service complex should be reviewed for feasibility of converting to seasonal housing.

Land Acquisition

Several acquisition units have been identified that meet the development goals.  Any existing structures located within the proposed acquisitions should be reviewed for feasibility of park use, including residences, outbuildings, etc.

  • Acquisition Unit 1 -- would serve to protect the park’s entrance, facilitate better management of the burn area, and allow for possible extension of the boundaries of the special ecological stewardship area and Graham Cave Glades Natural Area.
  • Acquisition Unit 2 -- would provide buffer for the natural area, provide potential for trail expansion, provide protection for the archaeological resources existing along the intermittent stream and prevent any undesirable development along the entrance road into the park (property is currently zoned commercial).
  • Acquisition Unit 3 -- would provide emergency access into the campground and would act as buffer to the northern edge of the campground.
  • Acquisition Unit 4 -- would serve to protect the park's entrance, precluding any undesirable development immediately adjacent to the entrance.  Additionally, Acquisition Unit 4 should be reviewed for the feasibility of installing an entrance gate and providing a turnaround.  The existing residence should be reviewed as potential for the facility manager's residence; the area should also be reviewed for the ability to relocate the service complex.  Note: the northern half of Acquisition Unit 4, adjacent to Dogwood Rd., was purchased while the CDP process was underway.
  • Acquisition Unit 5 -- would also protect the park's entrance from undesirable development, allow the ability to extend the natural area and special ecological stewardship area boundaries and expand the park's trail system.  Acquisition Unit 5 could also, if future use and demand dictate, provide an area for overflow camping or for pursuing the concept of a travel camp, as well as for relocating the campground to an area that could accommodate expanding the campground.
  • Acquisition Unit 6 -- would bring more of the Loutre River and its watershed into park protection as well as protect the river's associated archaeological resources and expand the park's trail system.
  • Graham Family Homestead -- Graham Cave was named after the first settler who owned the cave property, which remained in the Graham family from 1847 until its transfer to the state in 1964.  The Graham family farmstead is located south of the eastbound lanes of I-70, and contains a 19th century farm house as well as several other structures, ruins and potential archaeological sites.  The Graham descendents have discussed the possibility of selling or donating the property to the state at some undetermined time in the future.  Should this occur, the property should be reviewed for the presence of natural and cultural resources that enhance the mission of the park.


The following provides priority status to the proposed development objectives:

  1. Provide seasonal housing by evaluating the existing residence on the recently acquired property south of TT to determine feasibility of use.  Additionally, evaluate the potential for installing a newly acquired trailer on the recently acquired property, which would require determining water and waste water systems.
  2. Enhance the campground by implementing proposed modifications.
  3. Expand the upper day-use area.
  4. Relocate the service complex.  Should Acquisition Unit 4 become available, reevaluate order of #3 and #4 priorities.
  5. Maintain (enlarge/improve) visitor contact station in existing location.
  6. Pursue acquisition areas as they become available through willing sellers.

Approved by:

Doug Eiken, Director, Division of State Parks, 12/29/07
Jane Lale, Director, Planning and Development Program, 12/27/07
Dan Files, Field Operations Supervisor, Northern Parks District, 12/11/07
Kris Purcell, Field Operations Coordinator, Northern Parks District, 12/11/07
Debra Ray, Natural Resource Manager, Graham Cave State Park, 11/30/07


Members of the CDP team:

Frank St. Clair, Field Operations Supervisor, North Missouri Parks District
Jim Rehard, Field Operations Supervisor, Northern Missouri Historic District
Larry Larson, Katy Coordinator, North Missouri Parks District
Debra Ray, Natural Resource Manager, Graham Cave State Park
Bruce Schuette, Interpretive Resource Coordinator, Cuivre River State Park
Brant Vollman, Archaeologist, Resource Management and Interpretation Program
Dawn Fredrickson, Planner, Planning and Development Program

Citizen Input:

In addition to facilitating three public input processes, the CDP team used online and paper opinion surveys to augment the citizen input process.  Minutes from each of the public meetings as well as survey results from the Phase I and Phase II public surveys are provided in the following appendix.