Let’s see the largest dry cavern in North America. Here it is, Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, Arizona.
Let’s go in the caverns
What is this?
We like petrified logs
A petrified log, a place for us to rest and look at the desert scenery. We are not very far from the Petrified Forest National Park, also in northern Arizona. Remember, this was once a tropical rain forest, now a desert climate. Inside, our moms purchased tickets for the one hour tour. When is time, we get inside an elevator and descend 210 feet (64 meters) below the earth’s surface to enter the caves. We are the only tourists on this tour. This cavern has been dry for thousands of years, so nothing new has formed. This is called the Cathedral Dome, which is really an ancient waterfall, 90 feet above our heads.
On either side of the walkway we observed ancient waterways, or floor drains, descending 35 feet (10 meters). Really ancient, as this is a dry cave–no water enters this cave now. So, there are no stalactites and no stalagmites in this cavern.
Dry cave. No stalactites, no stalagmites
Here we viewed a rare form of Selenite, called Helecite, meaning “hollow inside”.
Helecite, a rare form of selenite
It is very fragile, and sitting on Redial Limestone with Calcite Crystals. Traveling here, in the southwestern United States, we are learning a lot about geology and learning lots of new words. We learned that only 3% of all caves are dry. Some of you may remember in the early 1960’s the United States had a Cuban Missile Crises. The United States and Cuba appeared close to going to war. Both countries, and the entire world, were scared. Bomb shelters were built, but this cave was declared a natural bomb shelter and in October, 1962 civil defense supplies (food, water, medical, etc) were brought here, to the largest room in the caverns.
Civil Defense Emergency Rations
There is still enough supplies to support 2,000 people for 2 weeks. Due to the dry conditions in the cave, no rodents or other animals live here, and supplies do not deteriorate easily. Food is nutritionally complete, but may not taste real good. Next we entered the Snowball Palace which nature worked on for 6 million years.
Our guide explaining the Snowball Palace
Humans and ducks are not to touch the walls or any formations, as the dryness makes everything fragile. Now, the Mystery Room.
And an explanation for the name, Grand Canyon Caverns. Previously called Dinosaur Caverns as they expected to find dinosaur fossils, but no indication of dinosaurs here. In 1958 smoke bombs were set off in the Mystery Room, and scientists discovered the air enters and leaves the cavern from this room. The air comes from 40 miles (64 km) away, near Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon. This is really clean air, being filtered through limestone and various rocks for 40 miles! These caverns are now known as Grand Canyon Caverns. A natural opening to the caverns once existed. This is how, in 1927 Walter Peck discovered them. When he sadly realized there was neither gold nor silver here, he lowered tourists, attached to a rope, into the hole in the ground and into the caverns. We now know, unfortunately, not only tourists entered the cavernous through that hole. This is a mummified bobcat.
Bob, as he is called, fell into the natural entrance about 1850. Due to the dryness of the cavern, as he died he became mummified. Another victim fell through the natural opening. This is a life size replica of a giant ground sloth, or glossotherium.
Giant Ground Sloth
This sloth has been extinct for at least 11,000 years. When she fell in, she tried to climb back out. Her claw marks are visible on the wall of the cavern. She lost a claw, embedded in the rock, in the process. Discovered in the late 1950’s, her bones were sent to the University of Arizona for identification. They, in trade for the bones, built this life size replica for the caverns. She was 15 feet 4 inches (3.1 meters) tall and weighed 1 ton (1,000 kg). She entered the cavern between 11,000 and 20,000 years ago. There are many formations here. These are called grape clusters formed from mixtures of Calcium Carbonate and Lime.
Grape clusters of Calcium Carbonate and Lime
We, Zeb and Soapy Smith Duck liked this in the caverns. Now we see Winter Crystal, the rarest form of Selenite in the caverns and the only spot it is found down here. Looking like a wall of snow is why it is called Winter Crystal. We, ducks and humans, really enjoyed our underground tour. And we are going underground again tonight.
Black poker chips. Our tickets for tonight’s ghost tour.
These are our poker chips, our tickets for tonight’s ghost tour. There is a cavern suite which can be rented for about $850 US dollars per night. The room, 220 feet below ground, is 200 feet wide, 400 feet long and has a 70 foot ceiling. It was rented last night, again tonight and also reserved for tomorrow night. All by different people. Several weddings have been performed here in the caverns. The first was April 15, 1977. Some brides left their bouquets and the dry, cool air keeps them preserved underground. These Grand Canyon Caverns are located in Peach Springs, Arizona, on historic Route 66. We just had to include this photo of a chair, reminding us of the iconic Route 66 connection.
Route 66 chair
And, in case you are wondering, we did enjoy our ghost tour, but no ghosts appeared that night. But this was another interesting hour underground. The electric lights were not turned on and we were all given small flashlights. For more information visit http://www.gccaverns.com When in northern Arizona, we believe you would enjoy visiting the world’s third largest, and North America’s largest dry cavern.