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Mammoth Cave National Park (4)  


Introduction

History

Cave Entrance

Cave Trails

Cave Passages

Speleothems

Above Ground

Trails

Green River

Animals

Buildings

References


Speleothems

Although many parts of the cave are dry and not particularly beautiful, other parts contain beautiful demonstrations of the action of the water on the rock. These formations are often referred to as "cave decorations" or speleothems. There are several types which are found in the cave.

Flowstone Among the most beautiful of the cave decorations are the flowstone formations. These are created by the action of mineral rich water running across limestone surface. The water spreads into a thin sheet on the wall and over ledges, leaving the deposits of time. When illuminated they are quite striking.




The most spectacular flowstone formation is Frozen Niagara, a wall of flowstone 75 feet high and 50 feet wide.



Stalactites, Stalagmites, Columns Among the most fascinating of the cave decorations are the pointed features which seemingly grow from the floor or ceiling. These formations are created when water seeps though cracks in the limestone, then drops from the ceiling to the floor. This leaves calcium carbonate residue which creates the formations.


One of the most spectacular displays of stalagmites and stalactites and other cave decorations is the Rainbow Dome not far from the Frozen Niagara Entrance to the cave. These areas can be viewed on the Frozen Niagara Tour, which covers about 1 1/2 miles and lasts about 1 1/2 hours.



The formations in the caves can take on many bizarre shapes.



The colors of the cave decorations are sometimes surprising, especially since the environment in which they are found is usually enveloped in total darkness.




Stalagmites are the complement to the stalactites, appearing to grow from the floor of the cave. They are formed by the residue from the drops of water which fall onto a particular spot.

Draperies Formations which connect to one another form draperies and other strange shapes.

These multiple, connected formations seem surprisingly elaborate, at least until one considers that they have taken millions of year to form.

The texture of the surface of these cave decorations is also fascinating.

Occasionally, some green algae and mosses have grown on the formations when they are near artificial light which illuminates some cave trails.


Other Features The composition of the rocks which form the walls and ceilings of the cave passages and interesting and beautiful, especially when illuminated by a light source carried by the visitor.

Some marks made by visitors in the past seem apparent on the rock surface below.

Although the rocks may be appear to be quite different in various places in the cave the rocks are almost entirely composed of limestone.

Portions of cave rocks are sometimes worn smooth by the action of the hands of generations of visitors.

In some places in the cave visitors from the past have left soot on walls and ceilings from the torches they carried to illuminate the passages as they explored them. However, in other places blackened areas of the rock may be entirely natural.





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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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