Speleology or simply put, the scientific study of caves, isn’t a subject matter most are familiar with, but it’s worth exploring. These mysterious voids are an unusual and thrilling excursion to take on a vacation.
Most caves throughout America have been reconstructed for commercial use, allowing guests the chance of a lifetime to explore the wonders of a real-life cavern. Caves are actually home to some of the most unique crystal formations and clear waters not found anywhere else! Check out these 10 totally magical caverns found throughout the United States!
10 The Carlsbad Caverns In Eddy County, New Mexico
Taking the number one spot on our list are the Carlsbad Caverns found in Eddy County, New Mexico. When the state name comes to mind, everyone thinks of deserts, lizards and its abundant plant life, right? Turns out New Mexico’s is also known for its caves. The Carlsbad Caverns once served as an ancient coastline for a sea inland some 250 million years ago.
Additionally, this cavity houses the 3rd biggest limestone chamber in America and the 7th in the world. After trekking the amazing passageways of this cave, visitors can also take part in the many bat flight programs and celestial night sky parties offered at its national park. Sounds like fun to us!
9 The Lava River Cave In Bend, Oregon
The fun doesn’t stop at the Carlsbad Caverns though! The Lava River Cave in Bend, Oregon provides some challenging and exciting adventures. Much of central Oregon was formed by volcanic activity long ago, hence the cave’s name Lava River. It was also one of the very first lava-tubes to be discovered in the state, as well as the longest in Oregon.
Since the geological makeup of the cave was formed in molten rock years ago, its pathways can be quite strenuous. Just getting to the actual entrance of the cave takes a good minute as tourists have to hike up and down 55 flight of stairs! At least visitors can get a good look at the bat species that reside in the cave. Just don’t get to close to them!
8 The Luray Caverns In Luray, Virginia
Considered one of the biggest caves in all of Eastern America and probably all of Virginia, the Luray Caverns are one of a kind. This National Landmark has various rock formations, structures and offers a beautiful array of natural colors. Visitors can book a 1-hour tour through the cavity's large chambers to view the stone columns, glittering draperies and sparkling pools.
The structure of the cavern system isn’t the only attraction around. The Luray Caverns are full of other wonders, such as The Great Stalacpipe Organ. Considered one of the largest instruments ever seen, it was crafted for the unusual purpose of making the hanging stalactites sing! Visitors can just tap the columns and they break out into song. How cool is that?
7 The Meramec Caverns In Stanton, Missouri
Caves and their attractions are pretty extraordinary! The Luray Cave was coupled with a carefully constructed Organ and now the Meramec Caverns offer LED Light Shows that accompany the song God Bless America. By the state of Missouri being dubbed the “Cave State” and the home to an insane 6,400 cavities in total, it’s not a surprise the Meramec Caverns pack a little extra for visitors.
In addition to light shows, its national park has a Jesse James Wax Museum built in honor of the late outlaw, as the large cavity was rumored to have been the hideout for him and his gang! The Meramec Cavern can make visitors feel as though they’re in the Wild Wild West!
6 The Caverns Of Sonora In Sonora, Texas
Texas comes in second place with having the most caverns in a single state, being home to nearly 5,000 cavities. Unfortunately, most of these beauties are on private land. Luckily, the Caverns of Sonora has become a public attraction and source of wonder for many spelunkers. Having first been discovered in 1905, this cavern system has one of the most beautiful mineral nodes and flowerstone formations out of any state. This southern belle’s main attraction are the butterfly-shaped Helicites that grow there. These unique mineral deposits branch out and spiral from the walls of the cave, growing in any direction without the use of gravity. Most formations take the form of a butterfly, hence the name. The Caverns of Sonora is a place people have to see to believe!
5 Ellison’s Cave In Lafayette, Georgia
One of the deepest caves ever known to man is Ellison’s Cave, with a dizzying drop of about 1,063ft. For those of us who’ve visited national landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Seattle’s Space Needle, this cave is roughly the same size of each of these attractions.
With several passageways and deep pits and slopes, there’s a reason why this Georgian native isn’t for the average spelunker. Cave divers should always come prepared with the proper attire, equipment and have the necessary skillset needed to tackle this cavity’s depths. Despite this massive cave’s challenging structure, it is boast worthy. This cave can earn any diver some serious bragging rights!
4 The Ohio Caverns In West Liberty, Ohio
Given the historical background of some of these states, like Missouri, it’s not hard to understand why they’re dubbed as a “Cave State.” Others like Ohio, are a bit of a mystery. Though much of the state caters to farmland and historic landmarks, no one would’ve ever thought Ohio had any caves. Located in West Liberty, OH are the system of caverns known as the Ohio Caverns. Made accessible to the public, these earthly voids are a popular tourist attraction and regarded as one of the most “Colorful Caves In America.” It also holds the record for being the largest cavern system in Ohio, along with housing a 200,000-year-old stalactite known proudly as The Crystal King. This mineral is 5 feet-long! Visitors will want to book the Natural Wonder Tour of the cave, if they want to see this mega stalactite up close!
3 The Jewel Cave In Custer, South Dakota
When talking about magic, caves and colorful crystals, people often think of mystical names such as South Dakota’s Jewel Cave. This cavity beats every cave on this list, since it has more crystals, draperies, stalactite and flowerstone any spelunker could ask for. Just because this cave is spellbinding, though, doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
The Jewel Cave has over 190 miles of passageways and another several miles of unexplored territory left to be discovered. The cave can tire even the most physically fit person in the room, so divers should take it easy. Despite its challenges, the Jewel Cave is breathtaking!
2 The Craighead Caverns In Sweetwater, Tennessee
Though the Jewel Cave has much to be proud of, the Craighead Caverns in Tennessee are even better. It is the only known cavern to possess an actual subterranean water ecosystem, known affectionately as the Lost Sea. Though having first made its introduction in 1905, researchers till this day still don’t know how deep the lake goes. A few efforts have been made and reported 13 acres of water found thus far. Not only is The Lost Sea a big deal but so is Craighead Cavern’s rich history. Tourists will learn of the Civil War soldiers that once mined the cave’s saltpeter for gunpowder, arrowheads and pottery that were used by the Cherokee Indians and unusually enough, a giant prehistoric jaguar’s remnants left behind. This cavern has lived through some interesting times!
1 The Ape Cave In Skamania County, Washington D.C
Even better than a hidden underground lake is a cave that was formed by one of the erupting Cascade Range volcanoes in Washington D.C 2,000 years ago. Like most caves, the Ape Cave carries a unique origin story. Research states that volcanic lava flowed down from the one of the range’s volcanoes in streams before cooling, creating an outer crust that allowed the molten lava inside to form tunnels. This was considered an unusual occurrence given that the volcanoes rarely erupted with lava. Much of these tiny passages ways and crawlways remain today, allowing visitors to experience what it’s like walking along 2 and half miles through a lava tube. Ape Cave also holds an 8-foot fall full of a decade’s old molten lava that’s sure to excite cave-divers! This cave defy’s the laws of science!