Luray Caverns: A brief History and Photo Tour
History of Luray Cavern
Luray Caverns was originally called Luray Cave and was discovered August 13, 1878 by local tin smith Andrew Campbell and two others. They were intrigued by a sinkhole in the ground, so sent Andrew down because he was the smallest. Upon entering the cavern, he saw what is now called Washington’s Column.
Luray Caverns Geology
The caverns were formed when acidic underground rivers carved the surrounding dolomite. As caves were formed, after further erodes the soft limestone. As it dripped down, it formed two types of stone: Drip Stone which forms from dripping water filled with minerals. The minerals build up and create the stalactites and stalagmites. It takes 20 years for drip stone to grow 1 cubic inch. The second stone is flow stone, and is formed by water with minerals flowing. It takes 300 years for Flow Stone to grow 1 cubic inch.
Fish Market: If the stones are wet, they are still alive and growing. If they are dry, they are stagnant and no longer forming.
Dream Lake: the “lake” is an optical illusion that appears much deeper than it is. In reality it is only a few inches deep but seems almost bottomless when looking into it’s clear, mirrored depths.
Pluto’s Chasm is 500 feet in length and about 70 feet deep
The Ghost of Luray Caverns
Pluto’s Ghost: Pluto’s Ghost is a was named in part for Pluto, the Greek ruler of the underworld. The column is called a ghost because it almost pure white and seems to glow. Andrew Campbell, the caverns discoverer, thought it was following him because it can be seen from multiple locations in the cavern. It can be seen three times on the tour.
Skeleton’s Gorge is named because the remains of a young girl were found there. The remains are believed to be the remains from a Native American burial ground. There was a sinkhole beneath the burial ground and the remains fell to the caverns below. The remains that were found were incomplete and are believed to be about 500 years old.
*Quick Geology Lesson:
Stactites form from the top of the cavern, stalagmites form from the bottom. An easy way to remember is stalactite as a “t” for top and stagmites “might” grow up! If they grow together it is called a column.
The Princess Column in Skeleton Gorge is named “Princess” in honor of the girl whose remains were found there.
The main body of the cavern is the largest and driest. It is dry because it sits under the cave hill which acts as an umbrella.
Giant’s Hall is the lowest point in the cavern.
It is dominated by by the “Redwood Tree” or “big Shaggy Dog”formation in it’s center.
The walkway leading out of Giant’s Hall was a filming location for 70’s film “The Other Side of Midnight.
Serasen’s Tent is perhaps the largest and best diplay of a “drapery”, a flowstone formation.
The Great Fallen Statctite was the most recent to fall and was estimated to fall over 7000 years ago. It weighs a massive 170 tons.
The hall it is located in is the most decorated with about 170,000 stalactites.
Tie the Knot at Luray Caverns!
The Bride and Groom are two intertwined columns (double column) just outside of the Cathedral. They are so named for all the weddings that have been performed in the cathedral. It is the largest in the cavern at 47 feet.
The Cathedral houses the famous stactite organ. It was invented by Mr. Leland Sprinke from Virginia and uses solenoids to tap the rock in place of organ pipes.
You pass closest to Pluto’s Ghost toward the end of the tour.
Then on to the Wishing Well, another illusion, but the opposite of the Dream Lake, it appears shallower than reality. Every 3 years or so, the money is removed and donated to charity. Make a wish and Pay it Forward!
You will pass by the “fried eggs”, which I thought looked more like oysters. It is where workers in the cave accidentally sheared off two stalagmites.
The final stop on the tour is the Luray Virginia Veteran’s Memorial. It is a beautiful and fitting tribute to those from this small town who paid the ultimate sacrifice serving our country.
Visitors were allowed to break off pieces to take for souvenirs prior to the 1920’s. So sad, but they just didn’t realize what they were doing at the time.
Luray Caverns: One of the Most Visited in the United States.
I hope you enjoyed our photo tour of the Caverns! It is such a beautiful and interesting place. Our tour guide Emma said they get about one million visitor’s a year. I also loved the fact that she was also a local.
Have you visited any caverns? Where were they and what did you think?
Stay tuned for more posts from our 2017 summer road trip!
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