This site had been up for years and the caves page was quietly gathering dust when, out of nowhere, I got a message from the (now defunct) feedback page. It simply said:
TRIP TO LEMP OR CHEROKEE CAVE. IF YOU WANT MEET US AT ____ O'CLOCK IN THE ______ PARKING LOT. BRING FLASHLIGHTS AND SOME CASH.
The message was completely anonymous which made it seem even more like an invitation for a good raping... I was intrigued, though. Getting into Lemp Caverns is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I'm always up for a fight. So, I said goodbye to all my friends, left a detailed note with IP addresses and showed up in the parking lot with a heavy flashlight and running shoes.
I couldn't believe what I saw as I pulled into the lot that night. A large group of perfectly normal looking people milling about with flashlights and excited looks on their faces. Ten minutes later we were under the streets of St. Louis in a goddamned cave. It was surreal. I still have no idea why I was invited.
Most of the cave is still intact. A small part near the bottom of the map marked "Bridge" was destroyed and blocked off with concrete walls when they built interstate 55. So, the loop no longer exists. You can access both arms of the loop, though, so the majority of the cave is still there.
Cherokee and Lemp are connected at the middle of the map near the "bone area." Lemp Caverns are to the left, Cherokee cave is the loop on the right. I am not sure if the bone area is part of Lemp, or Cherokee, but I would guess it is part of the Lemp cave. I say that because there is a change in elevation to the right of the Bone Area. You have to climb down a rusty-assed rickety ladder to go from the Bone Area to the "Stairs." As far as I can tell, the "Stairs" no longer exist. They are just rusty ladders.
Notice the "Air Raid Shelter" near the middle of the map. We did not get to that part because that arm of the cave is flooded with a few inches of water. There were little, pale fishes in the water.
The Lemp Caverns
I'm sure you can find plenty of information about the history of the Lemp Caverns, so I'll spare you. I do want to note a few of the features we saw while down there which are highlighted on the map.
Spiral Staircase to the Surface
For me, one of the most interesting things was this gigantic, iron, spiral staircase that led to the surface just behind the theatrical area.
This staircase was used by actors to get back stage during performances. Apparently, there wasn't much room for wardrobe changes behind the tiny stage so they would have to climb 34' to the surface to change their costume and get some air. Now it could only serve as an excellent way to impale yourself and get a nasty case of tetanus.
There isn't much left of this after many years of rotting in a wet environment. The stage area was made of plaster and wire. Sadly, it has decomposed into a heap of trash in the middle of the floor. The only thing left that reminds us of its original use are some stage lights hanging from the rocky ceiling.
The Iron Door
I don't have any photos of the iron door, but there is a story about the area. This is the entrance to the Lemp Brewery. When the cave was being used to entertain, this area (marked as "old elevator shaft", "stairs" and "refrigerator door") was decked out with a wood ceiling and wood floors. All the electricity used for the cave came in through this hallway.
The legend says there was a fire one day in the pool area. The st. louis fire department was on the scene and ran hoses down this hallway. The fire got into the ceiling and, before they knew it, the whole thing came down on the fire fighters and killed them all.
Is it true? I didn't research it so I can't say for sure. However, there certainly was a fire there and there is what looks like old, burned fire hoses on the floor. The last photo may or may not be the "refrigerator door."
There is a giant, brick-lined shaft in the ceiling of one of the wide cave areas. It is capped with a brick ceiling, but you can see, from the floor, that there is a passageway at the top. Some people in the group really wanted to know where it led, so they drug a long ladder into the cave. They got up in there only to find out it connected to another shaft which was blocked off with debris and red bricks.
The Cherokee Cave
Since this is just a draft, I'm going to just say three things about cherokee cave and get out of here. 1) It is neat. 2) It is moist. 3) I have 4 photos - The wishing well, some stairs, the "pit of death" and the concrete wall they put up when building hwy 55:
To be continued...
By the way. Please, DO NOT try to get into these caves yourself. You'll get hurt and arrested.