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7 Incredible Caves That Will Take Your Breath Away!

There are over 45,000 caves in the continental US alone, including the world’s longest cave system. These caverns are the home of some of the most stunning sceneries and rock formations that can be found on Earth. 

Caves come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Depending on the local minerals and water flow, they can also have distinct formations. Tiny and very inaccessible or huge as the Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns, the US’s many cave systems can have a lot of different forms. If you are into geology and spelunking here is a list of the most beautiful and interesting caves in our country. 


Photo by Galyna_Andrushko from Envato

#1 Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

The earliest inhabitants of Kentucky used this cave system more than 4,000 years ago as a hunting shelter during severe weather. Mummies and skeletons have also been discovered in several locations, along with pottery, prehistoric tools, and other artifacts from the past.

This is also the longest cave system in the world. Only what has been “officially” mapped shows that there are over 400 miles of interconnecting caves beneath Kentucky. We still don’t know exactly how deep this cave really is!

Another fact about the Mammoth Cave is that on its site there is a cemetery holding the remains of the first guides who mapped Mammoth Cave and the ones of a few tuberculosis patients. During the early 19th century, TB cases were temporarily placed in the caverns in the hopes that the climate would aid in the healing of their lungs.

#2 Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

The park has 113 caves that were formed when sulfuric acid dissolved nearby limestone. One of these is Lechuguilla Cave, the country’s fourth longest and deepest limestone cave at 1,567 feet.

The Guadalupe Mountains were home to the natives between 12,000 and 14,000 years ago. The region was well-known to the Mescalero Apache and some other tribes. Within the current park boundaries, there have been discoveries of several cooking ring sites and pictographs.

This cave system was first explored by a 16 year old boy named Jim White. He is credited with giving the names of many of some cave features that are still known today, including “Devil’s Armchair” or the “Witch’s Finger”.

Another fun fact about the Carlsbad Caverns is that it offers a Bat Flight Program which takes place from late May to October. The main event usually happens when the sunset begins, and you can see thousands of bats that exit the caverns in search of food. 

Photo by leungchopan from Envato

#3 Crystal Cave, Pennsylvania

The farmers who were hunting for limestone to improve the fertility of the land stumbled onto Crystal Cave and believed they found diamonds. Shortly after this event, a jeweler determined that the mysterious crystals were in fact tiny sparkling ice formations. 

Since they were not diamonds, and the farmers didn’t know much about caves, the property was sold to Samuel Kohler, who established Pennsylvania’s first visitor caves. His dedication to Crystal Cave resulted in the opening of the state’s first show cave. This is one of the original tourist attractions in Pennsylvania, and still one of the most well-liked attractions today.

Also, Crystal Cave has been carefully conserved in such a way that it still looks a lot like it did when it was initially discovered about 150 years ago.

#4 Jewel Cave, South Dakota

Jewel Cave is first mentioned in writing by a mining claim submitted in 1900. The brothers Frank and Albert Michaud depicted the entrance as having a little hole that was very small and couldn’t fit a person through it and a blast of chilly air flowing out. 

They widened the cave with dynamite and went inside. They found a lot of low ceilings and crawl spaces covered in stunning calcite crystals that glittered like “jewels” in their lamplights.

The brothers thought they struck it rich and decided to turn this natural wonder into a tourist attraction. But, the tourist business turned out to be everything but financially successful due to the small number of people living in that area and the challenges of travel at that time.

On February 7th, 1908, Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the cave National Monument, and this new status implied the preservation of the Jewel Cave. Shortly after, the Michaud brothers gave up, sold the site to the government for only $750, and moved away. 

Today, the exploration and mapping of the cave are done by experienced volunteers, and we know that over 55% of the explored cave is found beneath the Black Hills National Forest. Also, Jewel Cave is the third-longest cave in the world, measuring more than 200 miles. According to airflow research, there are still many unexplored tunnels.

#5 Oregon Caves National Monument

President Roosevelt took millions of acres of public forest land from the public domain in 1903, including the Southern Oregon Forest Reserve.

On July 12th, 1909, President William Howard Taft designated 480 acres of federal property as Oregon Caves National Monument, declaring it the first of twenty parcels to gain protection under the Antiquities Act.

The cave system is distinct from others in western North America because of the abundance of marble. Along with marble and limestone, sedimentary (rocks formed by the accumulation of slit, dead plants, and sand) and igneous (rocks formed through melting) rocks can be found both inside and outside the cave.

Once a road was constructed, in 1922, with funding from the government and the Oregon State Highway Commission, commercial cave tours were possible. Nowadays, the cave is still open for tours. Above ground, the monument includes a portion of an old-growth coniferous forest, including the largest known Douglas-fir tree in Oregon.

Photo by Passports and Grub from Pinterest

#6 Ruby Falls, Tennessee

Geologically, Ruby Falls Cave is a component of Lookout Mountain Cave, one of America’s longest caverns with 2.481 miles of recorded passageway. The Pliocene bones discovered in the cave provide proof that the cave’s natural entrance, which is located close to the Tennessee River, has been known about and inhabited since the Ice Age.

The Lookout Mountain Cave Company chose to reopen the cavern for business reasons in 1928, which led to the discovery of Ruby Falls. The waterfall cave’s entryway was uncovered while they were building an elevator shaft. When Leo Lambert found the fall, he named it Ruby after his wife. By 1930 the cave was ready to welcome visitors.

A campaign named “See Ruby Falls” made the cave well known to the general public and Johnny Cash together with Roy Orbison even wrote a song about it. 

The cave is now undergoing renovations. LED lights powered by solar energy are being added, and an expansion project worth $20 million is currently ongoing.

#7 Ape Cave, Washington

Since Ape Cave is the only documented basaltic eruption of Mount St. Helens, its development indicates a unique time in the volcano’s explosive history. The Cascade Mountain Range only occasionally experiences fluid basaltic lava eruptions and the lava from the Cascades typically has a thicker consistency. 

A lumberjack named Lawrence Johnson discovered the site of Ape Cave in 1947. The cave wasn’t actually explored until the early 1950s when a scout team commanded by Harry Reese went down and reached the cave’s floor. 

Ape Cave is the third longest lava tube in North America. The “Meatball” is the cave’s notable element, and it represents a chunk of cooled lava that fell from the lava tube. Not just the floor of this cave has evidence of the lava, though, the walls do as well. The lava dripping created unique flow marks that you can see on the walls.

Have you ever visited any of these caves? If yes, share your experience here and let us know what the most unique cave in our country is!

If you liked this article and you want to know more about the history of America, you should also check out: 8 Amazing Facts About American History We Wish We Knew Earlier


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