While visiting Virginia we decided to visit Endless Caverns which are near the town of New Market. While I toured the caverns quite a few times as I was growing up I never get tired of seeing the beautiful formations the cave has.
The cave was discovered by two boys in October 1879 while hunting rabbits. As they were moving some rocks they discovered a hole in the ground and explored it. In it they found many chambers and rooms. Soon after the discovery the owners of the land gave candle-lit tours of the cave. In 1919 the cave was sold and the new owner installed electric lights and opened it for commercial tours.
Caves like this one are formed when rainwater becomes slightly acidic as it seeps through the ground. This water transforms the underground limestone into something that is dissolved in water which is washed away. Over time these spaces are enlarged until they become the rooms we see today.
When the watertable drops and the water in the rooms drain the cave stops enlarging. After this the cave formations like these begin to form.
There are different formations in different parts of the cave and this room is called the Curtain Room.
I thought this formation on the cave floor was interesting.
This is the Cathedral Room and is quite spectacular.
Endless Caverns is still endless as the end has not yet been found. So far about 5.5 miles of the cave have been mapped. Its deepest measured point is 160 feet below the surface. Our tour guide is a member of a local Spelunking club which still is exploring this and other caves. Who knows, maybe more rooms like this are yet to be found.
Stalactites are the formations hanging from the cave ceiling. They are formed with minerals carried in the water. When these minerals reach an edge and comes into contact with the air the chemical reaction that created them is reversed and the particles are deposited. Over time they grow to become the formations seen here.
Stalagmites are formed from the ground up from dripping water by the same process.
When a stalactite and stalagmite meet and form together they become a column.
The tour ends in this building which also has a gift shop.
It does have some nice rocking seats where one can rest after their caverns tour and …
enjoy the view of the Shenandoah Valley.
There are over 4000 caves in Virginia. However only about 10 of them have been developed commercially. While all the commercial caves have the same basic formations each has some unique features so one can visit all of them and still see and learn new things.
Endless Caverns has regularly scheduled guided cave tours from Spring through Fall. The tours last about 75 minutes and are about one mile in distance. There are several steep stairs so this cavern tour will not be suitable for everyone, but those that are able to take the tour I think the caverns tour is well worth the time.
Cave formations Wikipedia article
Endless Caverns Wikipedia article
Virginia Division of Geology and Mineral Resources caves information
Endless Caverns website
Virginia Places has links and a map showing locations of Virginia’s commercial caves