- Kartchner Caverns State Park
Off I-10 and Arizona Hwy 90,
- This recently opened cave run by the state of Arizona contains
a large variety of minerals. It also boasts the world's longest "soda
straw" -- a fragile, 20-foot testament to what nature can accomplish with
water, a protected environment, and time. It also is testimony to human's
efforts to preserve the delicate interiors of caves while operating them for
public view. If a cave is deserted, it becomes prey to vandals, careless
tourists and uncontrolled changes in humidity. By opening the cave and insisting
on strict guidelines for visits, park officials say, it has a better chance
of being protected.
- Carlsbad Caverns
Off Highway 62/180 in New Mexico's Guadalupe Mountains.
- This complex of caves is overall the finest we visited. From
the entrance, a 45-minute walk down a steep, winding path takes you to the
Big Room, the heart of a labyrinth of huge rooms filled with formations (you
also can ride down by elevator). Though we spent most of a day underground,
we saw only a small fraction of all the views available to the public.
- Caverns of Sonora
Just off I-10.
- This cave is a gleaming white fairyland, rich with formations
of such variety that, if you let you imagination run free, is like walking
through Santa's workshop. Its rooms are small, but there are many of
them, all lined with fresh white calcite speleothems, including cave popcorn
and a tiny, delicate calcite rock shaped like a butterfly.
Rest of the US
- Blanchard Spring Caverns
Off Arkansas Highway 14,
Near Mountain View
- This cave is rare in that it is federally administered by the USDA
Forest Service. It is an underground castle with an enormous room the
size of a basilica. Its formations -- which range from long soda straws
to mighty columns -- stagger the imagination.
- Ohio Caverns
Off Ohio Route 245 near West lIberty
- This is one of the most actively growing caves we saw, with a collection
of nearly perfectly formed stalactites. Under forward-looking, environment-
conscious management for 75 years, this cave has escaped the souvenir-hunting
and exploitation that destroyed the beauty of many caves. In earlier
times, when some cave were selling formations or importing them, the owners
of Ohio Caverns were educating their staff and visitors on how to protect
- Grand Caverns
East of I-81, near Grottoes
- This cave is known for its variety of exquisite shield formations
-- groups of long stalactites mounted on a horizontal wall of rock. Most
caves have one or two shields at most; Grand boosts at least 200, including
one complex of three shields attached end-to-end.