Celebrate National Caves and Karst Day

King's Row Cave Tour
King's Row Cave Tour

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Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is celebrating National Caves and Karst Day on Saturday, June 8 with activities that include a hands-on educational and interactive display and free cave posters. Kids can earn a Junior Cave Scientist badge as well.

 Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is based around its flagship tours of Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Cave that started 20 years ago. When the National Caves Association (NCA) decided to designate a National Caves and Karst Day in 2017 to raise awareness of the crucial roles both play in our lives, everyone at the park was on board. For the third year in a row, the park is going all out to celebrate. Although the official NCA event is June 6, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is hosting its event on Saturday, June 8, to allow more people to participate.

“We get pretty excited about caves around here, so National Caves and Karst Day is a big deal,” explained Nancy Heard, general manager for Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. “Every time we give a tour or host a school group, we have the opportunity to teach our guests about cave science and the importance of conservation. On June 8, we’ll get to dive deeper into these topics and have some fun at the same time.”

Have Fun Exploring the Science of Caves

 National Caves and Karst Day activities include a hands-on educational and interactive display at the shade building located across from the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride and free cave posters to the first 120 people to ask for one. Kids can pick up a Junior Cave Scientist booklet there as well. To earn a free badge or sticker, they must complete at least one activity for each year of their age and return the completed booklet to the building to have it checked. The first 20 to do so will receive a free, signed “Cave Critters” coloring book written by Kay Cochran, a tour guide at the park.

Cool Cave Facts

Early June is a good time for families to visit the Adventure Park and to map out their cave visits for the rest of the summer. Here are 10 fun facts to know about caves and karst while planning a cave tour:

  1. A cave is a naturally occurring area or space under the surface of the Earth. Caves are often a system of interconnected passageways created by the weathering of rock.
  2. Most caves form in karst, which is terrain typically characterized by sinkholes, underground rivers and barren, rocky ground. Forty percent of the drinking water in the U.S. comes from karst aquifers.
  3. Icicle-shaped speleothems, or rock formations, form as water drips from the cave roof. Stalagmites, which one might trip over, grow up from the floor, usually from the water that drips off the end of stalactites that cling tight to the cave roof. When these two meet, a column is formed.
  4. Stalactites and stalagmites grow by only a fraction of an inch in a year, and since some are many yards in length, one can appreciate the time it takes for these speleothems to develop. In arid areas with little humidity, it can take a thousand years for a formation to grow one cubic inch.
  5. We learn a lot from caves. Researchers collect broken formations to track historical weather trends dating back hundreds of thousands of years. Universities partner with privately owned caves to learn how bacteria can play a role in cancer treatment and the development of new antibiotics.
  6. No two caves are alike. They can be found in glaciers, on mountaintops, in cliffs by the sea, in molten lava, in the desert and in hillsides.
  7. Caves are living things. Seepage from groundwater causes water to drip, which keeps formations growing and changing. A drop that falls onto a caver is called a cave kiss and is considered to be good luck.
  8. Caves are known to have provided shelter to mankind’s earliest ancestors. Cliff dwellings, such as those found in the Four Corners region of the Southwest, were inhabited by Ancestral Puebloans as early as 550 A.D. Fossils dating back to the Ice Age have been found inside caves as well.
  9. Caves are home to many forms of life that do not exist elsewhere. Troglobites, or cave-inhabiting creatures, are only found in caves and include certain species of shrimp, fish, blind salamanders, pseudoscorpions, spiders, millipedes and beetles.
  10. There are many ways to experience the subterranean world. Guided walking and wild tours are the most common, but there are caves that offer kayaking, floating or boating on underground rivers; cave diving; wildlife spotting; campouts; concerts; rappelling and more.

Heard added, “A lot of good things happen when you spend time in a cave. Many studies report that spending time in nature can boost mental and physical well-being, improve concentration, increase energy, reduce stress and lower blood pressure and heart rates. Pair that with exercise, such as descending and then climbing the 120 steps inside King’s Row, and the results are even better. It’s quality time that a family can spend together, focusing on nature instead of looking at screens.”

Park Admission & Hours

Regular admission rates apply for this event. A ride on the Glenwood Gondola costs $19 for adults and $14 for kids 3 to 12. The Gondola/Cave Tour combination is $32 for adults and $27 for kids. An inclusive Funday Pass is $58 for adults, $53 for kids, and includes the gondola ride, two walking cave tours and unlimited access to all rides. Annual Gondola and Thrill Pass holders can attend free. Those who have vouchers for the Locals’ Gondola Pass from earlier this year are encouraged to redeem them prior to this event, preferably on weekdays prior to 7 p.m.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Beginning Saturday, June 8, it will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with longer hours during Music on the Mountain events.

Showcaves of the Midwest

From the Black Hills to the Ozarks and the Wisconsin Dells to the Texas Hill Country, Cavern.com identifies 32 showcaves. They include the longest underground navigable river, the ultra-rare black alabaster, species of sightless cave-dwelling creatures and breathtaking formations of size and beauty. Here are some highlights:
  • Rushmore Cave near Keystone, S.D., is in a limestone formation encircling the granite core of the Black Hills. Its four rooms are the Post Office, where early visitors carved their initials; the Image Room, with face-shaped formations; the Floral Room, with helictites on stalactites in leaf and floral design; and the Big Room, with numerous stalactites, flowstone, and cave bacon.
  • Cave of the Mounds near Blue Mounds, Wis., discovered in 1939, is considered the most significant cave in the upper Midwest by the Chicago Academy of Sciences. It has a high number of colorful crystal formations on paved lighted pathways.
  • Bluespring Caverns in Lawrence County, Ind., contains 21 miles of surveyed passages and the longest U.S. subterranean river with 3 navigable miles. It is home to crayfish, salamanders, crickets, spiders, beetles, bats and the rare sightless Northern Cavefish.
  • Sights on the Kings Row Cave TourMarengo Cave in Crawford County, Ind., discovered in 1883 and open to the public from the beginning, has almost five miles of known passageway.
  • Spook Cave near McGregor, Iowa, opened in 1955, is explored entirely by boat on the underground water.
  • Crystal Lake Cave near Dubuque, Iowa, was discovered in 1868 and contains crystals including aragonite, travertine, satin stalagmite, stalactite and calcareous spar.
  • Alabaster Caverns near Freedom, Okla., has the largest natural gypsum cave in the world, including, pink, white and rare black alabaster, otherwise found only in China and Italy.
  • Mark Twain Cave near Hannibal, Mo., was discovered by hunters about 1820 and contains tools of earlier Native Americans who used the cave. Mark Twain visited the cave and based a scene in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer on his experience.
  • Meramec Caverns near Stanton, Mo., is the largest commercial cave in the state that has more than 6,000 surveyed caves. The system is 4.6 miles long.
  • Bluff Dwellers Cave near Noel, Mo., was used by the ancient peoples known as Bluff Dwellers. It was open to the public in 1927.
  • Talking Rocks Cavern in Stone County, Missouri, was named Fairy Cave by its early developer for its glittering crystals. (Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs also has a cave with the same name and offers tours of the Historic Fairy Caves)
  • War Eagle Cavern on Beaver Lake near Rogers, Ark., contains unusual domes, rimstone dams, and underground streams and waterfalls. It was used by moonshiners before the lake was built in the 1960s.
  • Exploring caves in a fun family activityMystic Cavern and Crystal Dome Cavern are less than 400 feet apart near Harrison, Ark. Mystic has a Pipe Organ calcite formation 30 feet tall and 12 feet thick as well as helictites, shields and spherical stalactites. Crystal has a 70-foot dome and other dripstone formations of pure while calcite.
  • Cave Without A Name near Boerne, Tex., has six rooms with formations of stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, cave drapery, flowstones and rimstone dams. Concerts are held in the Cave Throne Room.
  • Caverns of Sorona near Sorona, Tex., is in a limestone formation at the frontier of the Hill Country and the Chihuahuan Dessert. It was discovered in the early 1920s and opened to the public in 1960.
  • Inner Space Cavern near Georgetown, Tex., was discovered in 1963 and opened to the public in 1966. Mammoth and saber-tooth cat bones have been discovered in the ancient cave.
  • Natural Bridge Cavern near San Antonio, Tex., has a 60-foot limestone bridge. It was discovered in 1960 and opened in 1964.
  • Longhorn Cavern in Burnet County, Tex., was used by Native Americans, Confederate soldiers, outlaws, and, during Prohibition, as a speakeasy with musical performances. It was explored, cleaned and improved by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Musicians started performing in the cavern again in 2006.
Learn more about our nation’s show caves and plan to explore some of them soon, including Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado which, in addition to its spectacular show caves, is home to America’s only mountaintop theme park.

Explore Showcaves of the Eastern U.S.

Take a cave tour on your visit to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

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.

Behind the Scenes: Cave Care

Glenwood Caverns is temporarily closed until March while we install our new high-capacity tram. In the meantime, we’ve been busy housekeeping our treasured caves.

Most caves including Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park have a stable year-round temperature of about 55°F (13°C). Even when the outside temps dip to freezing or below, the interior of the caves remains comfortable for working—and that’s just what we’ve been doing since the Park temporarily closed in the fall.

Improving the cave experience for visitors

“The closure gives us time to work on some projects. We were able to eliminate eight steps on the King’s Row tour.  It will be the same fun and informative cave tour, but now guests will be able to walk amongst some of the rocks instead of above them on a walkway,” said Kathy Miller, Natural Attractions Manager at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. “Visitors will feel more a part of the cave and get a sense of what it might have felt like for the first people who discovered this room in 1960.” In place of the raised walkway, Miller and her team installed a new path with switchbacks that meander through the rockfall. The location of the new walking surface is in the Barn, the second largest cave room in Colorado. It’s what’s known as a breakdown room where the floor is covered with rocks that dislodged from the ceiling when the cave was formed. Extreme care was taken to ensure that no living cave formations were damaged in the process of building the pathway.

Yes, we dust our cave formations

Just like homes, caves are not maintenance free. Miller and her staff spend a significant amount of time housekeeping. Even though visitors leave backpacks, food and other items outside of the caves before taking a tour, they still track debris inside that must be tidied up periodically. “We regularly clean lint and hair from the cave walkways and formations, and we dust the formations as well,” Miller explained.  During the closure the team is doing an extensive deep clean that includes removing dust with small shop vacs fitted with an attachment typically used to clean computer keyboards. After the dust is removed the formations also get a gentle washing. “When spring comes the cave will rinse itself but we want to get the dust gone before the thaw,” Miller added.

Checking, replacing and installing

At any given time there are two to four staff members working in the caves as well as a welder who is constructing new handrails for guest safety and convenience. The maintenance checklist includes checking the airlock seals on the doors, replacing burned out bulbs and resetting lights for the new pathway. Building the pathway necessitated pouring concrete for a smooth and stable pedestrian-friendly surface. Because of its location inside a cave and the need for the airlock doors to remain sealed at all times, pouring concrete is done the old fashioned way. “We put up a double tent to contain the dust. Instead of using a cement truck, portable mixers and bagged concrete are hauled in. Our contractor does it the hard way—in small batches, by hand,” Miller said. Other tasks taking place include installing a new phone line in the event of an emergency and “scaling” work which is poking areas prone to loose rock.

Cave well-check

Open or closed, high-season or off-season, we are always concerned about the health and wellness of our cave. It’s our baby! Caves are extremely fragile environments with perceptible growth occurring incrementally over long periods of time. To assess its condition, the staff takes the cave’s temperature and measures humidity. It is an ongoing project that to date has spanned 20 years. Every three months a group of cavers from Denver check the evaporometers and data loggers that are placed throughout the cave. Evaporometers are devices that measure the rate of evaporation. Your cave guide can point them out to you on a cave tour. The data loggers take the temperature of the cave every 15 minutes. The information then gets downloaded and evaluated by experts four times per year.

While the Park may seem dormant this winter, there is a lot happening behind the scenes. Special thanks to Kathy Miller for providing information and photographs. Miller was recently appointed to the board of directors for the National Caves Association as regional director for member caves in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. She joined Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in March 2006 and was promoted to natural attractions manager in October 2014. Miller has lived in the area for 28 years.

Glenwood Caverns Hosts National Caves Association Convention

King's Row is a spectacular sight
King's Row is a spectacular sight

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park will be hosting the 53rd Annual National Caves Association Convention, Sept. 24 – 28, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Members of the National Caves Association (NCA) will convene in Glenwood Springs and at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park for their annual convention on Sept. 24 -28. The event is a venue for the exchange and sharing of ideas on all things related to owning and operating a cave attraction. While in town, NCA members will have the opportunity to learn more about Glenwood Caverns and its operations as well as share about their own experiences and insights.

Some of the convention highlights include a vendor show at the Hotel Colorado, an opening reception at Iron Mountain Hot Springs, keynote and other speakers, as well as Q & A sessions. There are also opportunities for visitors to get the full Glenwood Springs experience. Convention guests will have a chance to soak at Iron Mountain Hot Springs and ride the thrill rides at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. On Tuesday, a western-themed afternoon is planned at Bair Ranch High Canyon Adventures complete with four-wheeling or horseback riding excursions, a chuckwagon dinner and a bluegrass band.

This year’s keynote speaker is Mike Kaplan, President and CEO of Aspen Skiing Co. Kaplan was one of the youngest executives of a top U.S. ski resort when he took the reins as president and CEO of Aspen Skiing Co. He earned his Masters of Business Administration degree from the University of Denver. Kaplan offers a depth of knowledge about the fast and changing pace of guest expectations, recreational technology and growth opportunities.

Others include Jon Schallert, an internationally known speaker that helps small businesses improve their marketing strategies and become destinations that attract visitors far beyond regional geography. Schallert’s message resonates with cave owners, many of whom are family-owned enterprises. Also speaking on the topic of marketing is Trent Blizzard, owner of BlizzardPress, a website design and marketing firm in Glenwood Springs. A social media expert, Blizzard will share tips with NCA members about how to engage with audiences across a variety of marketplace platforms.

Photo op from Exclamation Point

With 146 registered participants, Glenwood Caverns is expecting the largest turnout for an NCA convention to date. The NCA represents 80 show caves from across the US, Bermuda and Barbados—including Glenwood Caverns. It was founded in 1965 by a small group of private show cave owners with the goal of encouraging the public to discover America’s underground wonders. The association is also dedicated to educating about cave science. They provide material resources; give talks and tours about everything from cave critters and how to protect the fragile cave environment to the mesmerizing cave formations that delight visitors.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park will be open to the public and operating as usual during the NCA convention.

Caves, Karst and 10 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Glenwood Caverns

Cave care is important to help underground ecosystems thrive
Cave care is important to help underground ecosystems thrive

Caves are fascinating and mysterious places worth exploring. These ten surprising facts are just the tip of the stalactite! Learn more at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park where we’ll be celebrating National Caves and Karst Day on June 6.

For the second year in a row, the National Caves Association (NCA) is celebrating National Caves and Karst Day on Wednesday, June 6. The goal is to raise awareness about the crucial roles both play in our lives and encourage vacationers to add a cave visit to their Colorado summer vacation itinerary.

 “Almost everyone knows about caves, but only a small percentage of people have even heard of karst,” said Steve Beckley, who owns Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park with his wife Jeanne. “Karst is terrain that’s typically characterized by sinkholes, caves, underground rivers and barren, rocky ground. Caves and karst are rich in resources, including 175 different minerals, a few of which have only been found in caves. Forty percent of the drinking water in the U.S. comes from karst aquifers!” That just scratches the surface of how caves and karst impact our daily lives.”

Take a cave tour at Glenwood Caverns for National Caves and Karst Day!
  1. Speleology is the study of caves. Our free speleobox mimics what it’s like to crawl through narrow cave passageways.
  2. Glenwood Caverns is one of the few caves that is located on top of a mountain.
  3. The caves were created by the mixing of ascending hot springs water and descending surface water. The combination of the two created an acid that dissolved the rocks and created miles of cave passageways and chambers.
  4. There are 127 steps (with platforms for viewing and resting) down to King’s Row which is the most highly-decorated cave room in Colorado. A light show highlights the spectacular cave formations.
  5. Many critters call the caves home. The creatures that spend their entire lives underground are called troglobites and include insects and spiders.
  6. Active, living caves are extremely fragile environments. To keep the atmosphere friendly to underground life, the Beckleys installed airlocks to reduce airflow, and technology that monitors temperature and humidity.
  7. In 2000, a two new species of troglogbites were discovered. Both are currently known to live only in Glenwood Caverns.
  8. A student and former tour guide discovered not one, but seven previously unknown forms of bacteria, some of which may have applications in fighting disease!
  9. Glenwood Caverns has a marvelous array of cave formations including snowflake-like aragonite crystals, flowstone that resembles frozen waterfalls, colored bands of cave bacon, mounds of cave popcorn and delicate soda straws, as well as a multitude of stalactites and stalagmites.
  10. The caves were always the main attraction at Glenwood Caverns, thrill rides were installed to give visitors something to do while they waited for the cave tours. Glenwood Caverns now offers three different cave tours and multiple thrill rides.

There’s no doubt about it; caves are intriguing. Explore Glenwood Caverns this summer. Whether you choose the easy-to-walk Historic Fairy Cave Tour, the popular King’s Row tour or the crawling adventure of the Wild Tour, our expert tour guides will shine a light on the fascinating world of caves. Join us on June 6, for the National Day of Caves and Karst or visit us anytime. To learn more about Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park visit glenwoodcavdev.wpengine.com.

Vaccine is good news for travel industry

Glenwood Caverns to Host National Caves Association Convention

Take a cave tour at Glenwood Caverns for National Caves and Karst Day!

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is preparing for the 2018 National Caves Association Convention, September 24 – 28.  The event will give America’s only mountain-top theme park an opportunity to welcome members and show off its own spectacular show cave and park.

For five days in September, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park will host the 53rd annual National Caves Association (NCA) Convention. The NCA represents 80 show caves from across the US, Bermuda and Barbados—including Glenwood Caverns. It was founded in 1965 by a small group of private show cave owners with the goal of encouraging the public to discover America’s underground wonders.

The NCA website highlights some of America’s most enchanting subterranean landscapes. In addition to Glenwood Caverns, a sampling of other show caves from across the country includes Natural Bridge Caverns and Caverns of Sonora, both in Texas; Moaning Cavern in California; Lost Sea Caverns in Tennessee and Luray Caverns in Virginia.

The NCA is also dedicated to educating about cave science. They provide material resources; give talks and tours about everything from cave critters and how to protect the fragile cave environment to the mesmerizing cave formations that delight visitors.  At Glenwood Caverns guests learn about stalactites, stalagmites, cave bacon, popcorn, flowstone and soda straws on the King’s Row and Fairy Caves tours.

NCA visitors are encouraged to explore Glenwood Springs while they are in town for the convention.

During the convention, the NCA group will gather for a welcome reception at Iron Mountain Hot Springs, attend a series of discussions and a vendor showcase at the Hotel Colorado, and have an opportunity to participate in both planned and free-time activities. Conference breakout sessions will include topics such as cave lighting, social media savvy, ride safety, and how to create a successful destination business presented by Jon Schallert. The keynote speaker, to be announced, will likely be a representative from a Colorado company within the tourism industry.

While in town, convention attendees will also have the chance to experience classic Colorado and Glenwood Springs activities. High Canyon Adventures at Bair Ranch will lead jeeping and horseback riding excursions into the high country above Glenwood Canyon. Guests can also take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and all that Glenwood Springs has to offer with self-planned outings like cycling in Glenwood Canyon, fly fishing, tandem paragliding adventures, golfing at the area’s championship links and of course soaking in the geothermal waters.

Visiting cave aficionados will also get the opportunity to take a turn on all the rides and attractions at Glenwood Cavern Adventure. Glenwood Caverns is excited and proud to host the 2018 NCA Convention. We look forward to meeting our colleagues from across the country, learning from one another and sharing our passion for both caving and business at this year’s event.

Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs

Spend some time relaxing at Iron Mountain Hot Springs during the NCA convention.