Most Popular Caves in the US: Map and Geology
This interactive map shows places named Cave or Cavern. Each circle represents a place with a cave. The polygons represent karst features in the US. To find type, and exact location of the caves, and karst feature characteristics hover over the map. To get a closer look, zoom over the map. For more information scroll below.
Map of US Caves
This map shows the location of parks, mines, and falls called caves, caverns, grottos, or cueva. This data was downloaded from the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS).
This map also shows locations of caves found in the National Caves Association.
Because caves are related to the rocks and formations of the area, this map has included Karst formations. The shapefiles with Karst formations were downloaded from Berkey Library. More information about karst below.
Caves are natural voids in the ground. They occur in a wide variety of rock types and caused by different processes.
Caves are beautiful and unique structues. So far, in the United States 17,000 caves have been discovered! They are formed mostly where limestone is present (hover over the map).
Although there are hundreds of caves known, around the country, these caves are commonly on private property and are not suitable for casual outings.
This map and lists, include only the most recognized ones.
Caves come in all sorts shapes and sizes. They also have different formations depending on the water flow and minerals in the area.
Some sections of caves are very small and almost inaccessible to humans, but others are large as the Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns NM. This room has an area of 14 football fields Source: http://legacy.earlham.edu/
Amazing US Cave Facts
- The longest cave system in the World is Mammoth Cave, located in the State of Kentucky. It has over 400 miles of mapped tunnels, and many more to be explored!
- The third longest cave in the world, is Jewel Cave, located in South Dakota.
- In Hawaii there is a Lava tube that goes 3609 feet deep.
- Lechugilla Cave (part of Carlsbad Caverns National Park) is the eighth longest cave in the world and the deepest cave in the US with 1,604 feet or 489 meters deep.
- Tennessee has around 7000 caves.
- Missouri has about 5500 caves.
- Bluespring Caverns in Bedford Indiana, has over 18 miles of passages to create Americas longest navigable underground river.
- The Luray Caverns in Virginia have a lithophone. A musical instrument with rock pieces that are struck to produce musical notes. The sound comes from ancient stalactites of different sizes.
- The "Big Room" in Carlsbad Cavern is about 4,000 feet (1,220 m) long, 625 feet (191 m) wide, and 255 feet (78 m) high at its highest point. It is the largest chamber in the United States.
The Scientific study of Caves is called Spelology. It is a blend of geology, hydrology, biology and archaeology.
Caves are formed from a variety of geologic processes depending on the environmental conditions of the area.
The conditions or processes may be volcanic, tectonic or earth movement, water or physical erosion, and chemical solution.
Caves may be formed in igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic rocks.
"Lava tubes, fracture caves, sea caves, and sandstone shelter caves are examples of caves formed by volcanoes, earthquakes and the abrasive forces of water and wind" Missouri State Parks.
Solution caves are formed in limestone and similar rocks by the action of water.
Karst landscapes develop where limestone and dolostone are at or close to the surface. Limestone is mainly composed by calcium carbonate.
Over long periods of time, the carbonate is dissolved by rain and groundwater, creating karst.
Karst is an erosional process in which the carbonate is removed at the surface and underground. The erosion may be chemical when the rock be dissolved into its components and carried away in solution.
Chemical solution produces the most karst landforms. The different karst formations have different shades of blue on the map above.
The Carbonate removed by the water leave behind holes that over time may form a sinkhole or a network of caves.
The minerals dissolved in the water may later be redeposited as cave stalagmites and stalactites Minnesota Geological Survey.
Included on the map are areas of features analogous to karst also called pseudokarst. This karst-like terrain is also produced by processes other than the dissolution of rocks.
As shown in this map, most of the caves are formed over karst terrain.
Most popular Caves and Caverns
The lists of popular caves and caverns are the result of searching on Google Trends for the most searched "cave" or "cavern", in the US for the last 5 years. These are the top searches and not the rising related topics.
The terms "Cave" and "Cavern" designate the same space. But because both are used I decided it was appropriate to make a list for each.
Not all the caves are pristine and have perfect speleothms. There are many different reasons that make this caves special. Some of them are sought by their tunnels, others by the outside trails, others by the water features in and around them. Other caves are attractive because of their sheer size, the wildlife that sill live inside them, and others by the manmade transformations that make them unique and special. Below the list is a short description of each cave and its main features.
10 most popular Caves in the US
- Mammoth Cave National Park
- Wind Cave
- Robbers Cave State Park
- Indian Cave State Park
- Cave Point County Park
- Crystal Cave
- Cave of the Winds
- Penn's Cave and Wildlife Park
- Niagara Cave
- Hocking Hills State Park
Mammoth Cave National Park is located in Kentucky. This is the world's longest known cave system. It has over 400 miles (640km) of surveyed tunnels.
There are different tours to visit Mammoth Cave. The cave does not have led lights to enhance its beauty. It is even possible that a tour guide will turn off the lights so you can see and feel the darkness of its tunnels.
Wind Cave is situated in South Dakota. This cave was established by President Theodore Roosevelt and is the first cave to be designated a national park.
Wind Cave has special calcite formations known as boxwork and frostwork. Boxwork is almost unique to this cave. Boxwork is made of thin blades of calcite that intersect one another, forming angles. It is still not quite clear how boxwork is formed Source: nps.gov
Robbers Cave State Park is in southeast Oklahoma. This cave is a favorite of rappelers, hikers, and outdoor lovers.
After the Civil War, the area became legendary for sheltering fugitives from the law, hence the name. Among these fugitives were Belle Starr and Jesse James.
Indian Cave is a park at the southeast of Nebraska.
The cave is the main feature of the area. It has Native American prehistoric petroglyphs of unknown date and origin.
Besides the cave, the main attraction of Indian Cave Sate Park, are the outdoor activities. It has 22 miles of beautiful hike/biking trails plus 16 miles of equestrian trails. Source: OutdoorNebraska.gov/indiancave/.
Cave Point County Park is located in Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Michigan.
The cavernous stone at Cave Point was carved by centuries of waves crashing the shore and dissolving the limestone.
It is possible to see part of the caves from shore, but the best way to see them, and the only way to go inside of them is kayaking or scuba diving Source:Doorcounty.com
Cave Point is not a national or a state park. The admission is free.
Crystal Cave is located near Kutztown, Pennsylvania.
The crystalline vanilla color formations on the walls and the ceiling gave this cave its name.
The cave is a long and large water-carved passage around ancient bedrock, divided into five chambers.
Crystal Cave measures 500 feet (150m) long. Its lowest point is at 155 feet (47m) deep.
Cave of the Winds is situated in Colorado Springs.
Cave of the Winds is located 7,000 feet high!
The Cave of the Winds offers three different tours. A fun one, a spooky one and detailed one.
The cave is part of a Mountain park that also offers thrill seeking visitors a challenge course, and a terror ride atop of a cliff! Source: Visitcos.com.
Penn's Cave and Wildlife park is in Centre Hall Pennsylvania.
This is an all water cavern. You must see the cave from a boat.
The cave features glittering stalactites and stalagmites. You can see how dripping water has created flowstone, curtains, cascades, and draperies, next to gigantic pillars.
Penn's Cave attractions don't end in the Cave. Outside there are 1,600 acres with bears, elk, deer, foxes, bison, wolves, and more Source: Pennscave.com.
Niagara Cave is located in Minnesota.
The cave features and underground stream and a waterfall.
To visit the cave it is required to have comfortable shoes for the steps and mile long hike.
Because of the geology of the cave besides the limestone it is also possible to see fossils of the aquatic lifeforms that lived in the area millions of years ago. You can see cephalopods, gastropods and trilobites! Source: Niagaracave.com
Hocking Hills is located in Hocking Hills Ohio. The park features three caves: Old Man Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave.
Cedar Falls has the greatest waterfall in terms of volume. Ash Cave is the biggest and most spectacular feature of the park.
Ash's Cave narrow gorge is approximately one-fourth mile in length and with astonishing suddenness gives way to the tremendous overhanging ledge and cave shelter. The horseshoe-shaped cave is massive; measuring 700 feet from end to end, 100 feet deep from the rear cave wall to its front edge with the rim rising 90 feet high.
Hocking Hills is not just about the caves. The park has amazing trails where you can explore cliffs, streams, and rock formations! Source:Hockinghills.com
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These are my favorite products found on Amazon, for when visiting caves. These products are focused in caves and caverns but are also adecuate for hard to reach sites on mountains.
- Tontron Hiking Climbing Caving Helmet: When walking in small spaces its always a good idea to protect your head.
- Ledlenser, iH5R High Power LED Professional Headlamp, Rechargeable or AA Alkaline Batteries, Compact, Lightweight, Multiple Helmet Mounting Options: This lights are reliable and light, perfect for a walk in a cave, where you need your hands free.
- TBMPOY Men's Outdoor Quick-Dry Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Mountain Pants: When visiting a cave it is always important to take long pants. This are for climbing and perfect for a cave visit.
- SCARPA Men's Zodiac TECH GTX Mountaineering Boot: These are comfortable boots for difficult terrains.
10 most popular Caverns in the US
Most searched Cavern Park related topics in the last 5 years. Below the list is a short description of each cavern and its main features.
- Longhorn Cavern State Park
- Kickapoo Cavern State Park
- Carlsbad Cavern National Park
- Louisville Mega Cavern
- Inner Space Cavern
- Florida Cavern State Park
- Glenwood Cavern Adventure Park
- Moaning Cavern Adventure Park
- Kartchner Caverns State Park
- Rickwood Caverns State Park
Longhorn Cavern is located in Burnet, 90minutes from Austin, Texas.
To reach Longhorn Cavern you have to descend 130 feet. The tour is 1.1 mailes round trip. Some passages are low but the caverns are worth the walk Source: https://visitlonghorncavern.com/
Kickapoo Cavern State Park is west of San Antonio Texas.
The park has 20 known caves. The largest are Kickapoo and Stuart Bat Cave. Unauthorized entry to the caves is not allowed to protect the creatures inside them.
Kickapoo Cavern is about 1,400 feet long.
Stuart Bat Cave is shorter than Kickapoo and is the seasonal home of the Mexican free tailed bats. They live in the cave during the summer months. While in the cave they leave each evening to hunt insects. It is possible to see them as long as you follow the rules posted. Source: Kickapoo Cavern.
Carlsbad Cavern National Park is located in New Mexico.
Carlsbad has different routes to access the main rooms and some are untouched to preserve natural access to wildlife.
Carlsbad has the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America. The cavern trail is 1.25 miles (2km) long and will take about 1.5 hours to walk.
The Big Room is (1,220 m) long, 625 feet (191 m) wide, and 255 feet (78 m). The cave trails have incredible views and formations of all shapes and sizes. nps.gov
Louisville Mega Cavern is in Louisville Kentucky.
The Mega Cavern was a massive limestone quarry, with miners blasting the rock for 42 years. Now it has a recreation area, a recycling center, and a warehouse.
The site is a 100 acre limestone cavern. Facilities for recreation include: Zip lines, rope challenge course, underground tram, walking, and bike tour. Source: https://louisvillemegacavern.com/
Inner Space Cavern is located in Georgetown Texas.
Inner Space was formed by water passing through Edwards Limestone.
There were large openings in the caverns during the Ice Age. The evidence lies in the skeletons of large Ice Age animals like mammoths, giant sloths, and saber tooth skeletons found in the caverns. Source: Wikipedia
Florida Cavern State Park is a natural void that was chiseled by Civilian Conservation Corps workers, to offer visitors a chance to walk into the cavern.
Florida Cavern has large underground rooms, with Stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and draperies.
Glenwood Cavern adventure park is hidden in Iron Mountain Colorado.
Part of the tour takes place outside in the unpredictable weather of Colorado. Once inside you can see the underground landscape that took millions of years to create.
The Caverns have formations like stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws (speleothems in the form of a hollow mineral cylindrical tubes). Source: Visitglennwod.com
Glenwood caverns also have cave bacon and flowstone. These are the mineral buildups produced on a long thin sheet, with undulations similar to crisp slices of bacon. Variations in the chemicals in the slowly dripping cave water create colored stripes similar to alternating bands of fat and meat". Source: EOS.
Moaning Caverns is located in California.
These caverns have different tours depending on your fitness condition.
Moaning Caverns has California's deepest cave chamber. To see it, you must descend sixteen stories down, via a spiral stair case.
The cavern has impressive stalagmites and flowstones. It also has Moaning holes, rock formations caused by dripping water that cause moaning sound. This sounds inspired the caves name.
Moaning Caverns park also has outdoor attractions that include ziplining and wall climbing. Source: Moaningcarverns.com
Kartchner Caverns State Park is located in Arizona and is in an almost pristine condition.
Among the different formations in the caverns, are the longest soda straws, with 21 feet and 3 inches, and the tallest column in Arizona with 58 feet.
The world's most extensive formation of brushite "moonmilk": a precipitate from limestone comprising aggregates of fine crystals of varying composition.
The Kartchner Caverns also have needle quartz formation as well as shields, totems, helictites, and rimestone dams. Source: azstateparks.com
Rickwood Caverns State Park is located in the State of Alabama.
This massive caverns were water-formed during the Mississippian period about 269 million years ago.
The caves' limestone formations are illuminated and the caverns also boast an underground pool.
Rickwood Caverns still contains active "living formations", as mineral filled water droplets build colorful structures and flowstones.
The cavern reveals that it was carved from an ocean bed as it has shell fragments and fossils of marine life clearly visible along the cavern ceiling and walls. Source: Northalabama.org
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