The United States is full of natural wonders shaped by Mother Nature, from the Grand Canyon to the Rocky Mountains. One type of formation that many people don't often think about, however, is the cave. After all, you can't see these wonders from above.
Located near the town of Sonora, Texas, the Caverns of Sonora are known for their sparkly calcite crystal formations. Because of these formations (which are still growing), the caves have been named some of the most beautiful in the U.S. and have beendesignated a National Natural Landmark. Open to the public since 1960, today the caverns offer guided tours as well as gemstone panning.
If you find yourself driving I-44 (the former Route 66) through Missouri, you will have a hard time missing the billboards advertising the Meramec Caverns. Located near the town of Stanton, this limestone cavern system has existed for at least the past400 million years – in fact, there's a rock formation here that took longer to form than the entire Grand Canyon. Along with being a popular stop-off for tourists, legend has it that the famed outlaw Jesse James hid out in these caves in the 1870s. Guidedtours are offered daily, as well as activities nearby such as ziplining and canoe floats.
Located in central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave is part of a larger cave system that is the longest cave system known in the world, with more than 400 miles having been explored. Today, Mammoth Cave is a national park operated by the National Park Service,as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since it “illustrates a number of stages of the Earth's evolutionary history and contains ongoing geological processes and unique wildlife.” Visitors to Mammoth Cave can take guided tours where they see limestoneformations with names like “Grand Avenue,” Frozen Niagara,” and “Fat Man's Misery.”
Also operated by the National Park Service, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a collection of more than 119 caves formed when sulfuric acid ate away at the surrounding limestone beneath southeastern New Mexico. The most famous formation at Carlsbad Caverns is the “Big Room,” one of the largest natural limestone chambers in the world. The caves at Carlsbad are well visited, especially during the summer months, and visitors can book Ranger-guided tours of all sorts as well as join in on an informative bat flight program in the evenings between Memorial Day and late October.
Have YOU visited any memorable caves in theU.S., or anywhere else in the world?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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