Dramatic lighting highlights formations on King's Row tour

If you go deep enough, each cave has its own special attraction. Beautiful rock and crystal formations. Water features. Music. Cavern-dwelling creatures. History. Here’s a subjectively-selected Top 10 list drawn mostly from a review of highlighted caves on Cavern.com

  • Luray Caverns in Virginia. Hear the largest musical instrument in the world, the Great Stalacpipe Organ, that taps stalactites with rubber mallets across a 3.5-acre expanse and fills the whole place with sound. As if that weren’t enough, the Geology Hall of Fame is here.
  • The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, Tenn. This place 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.
  • Bluespring Caverns in Lawrence County, Ind. Speaking of water, the longest underground navigable river in the United States makes this a superlative destination. In addition to the three miles of flowing water, this place has a fascinating selection of creatures including salamanders, crickets, spiders, beetles, bats and the rare sightless Northern Cavefish.
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Monument in Eddy County, N.M., explored in 1898 and declared a national monument in 1923, includes Carlsbad Cavern and Lechuguilla Cave. Carlsbad Cavern has 23 named rooms – the biggest covers 357,469 square feet. Lechuguilla Cave, one of the most popular in the world for spelunking, is 1,640 feet underground, extends for 120 miles and has spectacular features such as 20-foot gypsum crystals and 50-foot calcite columns.
  • Alabaster Caverns near Freedom, Okla. When there are only three places to see black alabaster, and only one in the United States, it’s worth a trip to the largest natural gypsum cave in the world, with pink, white and rare black alabaster as well as crystal formations of selenite, another kind of gypsum.
  • Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Named for its own size rather than the wooly prehistoric beast, the world’s longest cave system—more than 400 miles—is worth a visit. Right next door, you can see Diamond Cavern’s drapery deposits of naturally colorful calcite.
  • Cave Without A Name near Boerne, Tex. You can see formations of stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, cave drapery, flowstones and rimstone dams in six rooms and hear concerts in the Cave Throne Room.
  • Meramec Caverns near Stanton, Mo. This 4.6-mile system has irresistible history. Natives used the caves for shelter, a French miner visited them in 1722, and Confederates destroyed a Union saltpeter plant in the caves during the Civil War. Meramec was one of the first attractions advertised by bumper sign when it opened to the public in 1935.
  • Grand Caverns in Grottoes, Va. Speaking of history, the oldest continually operated show cave 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.
  • Longhorn Cavern in Burnet County, Tex. This one’s got music and history. It was used by Natives, Confederate soldiers, outlaws, and, during Prohibition, as a speakeasy with musical performances. Really—a tavern in a cavern. It’s been hosting musical performance since 2006.

Of course, Glenwood Caverns in Glenwood Springs is a Colorado stunner. Exquisite underground landscapes include rooms that are among the state’s largest— “the Barn,” and the most highly decorated—King’s Row. Glenwood Caverns offers two cave tours—the Historic Fairy Caves and King’s Row—both are included in the Park’s Funday passes. Learn more and plan a visit to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

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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

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