Dramatic lighting highlights formations on King's Row tour

The geological history of the eastern United States has created dozens of caverns and cave systems, mostly along the Appalachian Mountains with some in the limestone and sandstone layers of Ohio and Kentucky.

Cavern.com has highlighted 13 of the 31 identified in the region as among America’s Best Showcaves.

  • Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves in Kinsman Notch, New Hampshire, was formed by glaciers after the last Ice Age. The river flows beneath the surface before it joins the Pemigewasset River. It was discovered by boys fishing in 1852 and bought by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in 1912.
  • Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is the world’s longest cave system – more than 400 miles explored since it was rediscovered by Europeans in the late 1700s.
  • Diamond Cavern next to Mammoth Cave has illuminated the drapery deposits of naturally colorful calcite in its halls with state-of-the-art lighting. Tourists have visited the site since the late 19th
  • Ohio Caverns in West Liberty has more than two miles of surveyed passages from 30 feet to 103 feet under its 35-acre park.
  • Seneca Caverns in Bellevue, Ohio, was discovered in 1872 and opened for visitors in 1933 after previously-unknown passageways, rooms, and an underground river were discovered.
  • The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, Tenn., is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest underground lake in the United States. It is 4.5 acres at the surface, but more than 13 acres have been mapped and the work is incomplete.
  • Cumberland Caverns is a system of more than 32 miles of caves and underground passageways with rock formations, waterfalls, and pools in McMinnville, Tenn. It hosts headliner music events in the Volcano Room 333 feet below the surface.
  • Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, Tennessee, named for the wife of Leo Lambert who in 1928 discovered the underground waterfall more than 1,120 feet under the surface of Lookout Mountain.
  • Raccoon Mountain Caverns, a cave system near Chattanooga, offers campsites and panning for gemstones in sight of Lookout Mountain and Raccoon Mountain.
  • Shenandoah Caverns in Virginia has an elevator for easy cavern exploration. It offers a one-hour guided tour of the geology including crystalline formations.
  • Luray Caverns in Virginia hosts the Geology Hall of Fame and offers guided tours on lighted, paved walkways through rooms 10 stories high. Its Great Stalacpipe Organ is the largest musical instrument in the world—tapping stalactites with rubber mallets across a 3.5-acre expanse.
  • Grand Caverns in Grottoes, Va., the oldest continually operated showcave in the United States, was discovered by a trapper in 1804 and opened to visitors in 1806. More than 200 Confederate and Union soldiers from nearby battles signed their names in the caverns.
  • DeSoto Caverns in Childersburg, Ala., was explored by Native Americans, mined by Confederate soldiers, and used to hide moonshining during Prohibition.

The National Caves Association divides the country’s showcaves into four regions: West, Mid-West, East and Off-Shore. The caves at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park are part of Western region.

The following two tabs change content below.
Gene Stowe

Gene Stowe

Gene Stowe was a reporter for The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer for 13 years and head of the writing program at Trinity School at Greenlawn, a four-time U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School in South Bend, Ind., for 10 years before he became a full-time freelance writer in 2008. His first book, Inherit the Land: Jim Crow Meets Miss Maggie’s Will, was published in 2006. He lives in Monroe, N.C.
Gene Stowe

Latest posts by Gene Stowe (see all)