Explore the Underground

Cave Formations  



Dripstone

Dripstone is formed as water drips from the ceiling of a cave, leaving behind small deposits of calcite.  Formations that are created through this process include stalactites, stalagmites, and columns.


Stalactites and Stalagmites: What Grows Where?

 

Stalactites
Stalactites grow from the ceiling of a cave.

As water travels through the air and soil it picks up carbon dioxide, forming a weak carbonic acid.  This weak acid will dissolve the limestone above the cave as well as pick up minerals in the soil.

That water enters the cave, leaving small deposits of calcite where the water is hanging.

Stalactites, which resemble icicles, are pointed at the end because water will hang from the end before falling off.



 
 

Stalagmites

Stalagmites grow from the calcite deposits on the floor of the cave.

Any minerals left in the water when it falls from the ceiling of a cave will lead to the creation of formations on the floor.

They are rounded on top because water will hit the top and then roll off.



 


 

Columns


When a stalactite - growing down - and a stalagmite - growing up - join, it is called a column.

This picture is a column located in the main chamber.  It measures only three inches tall, but about fifteen feet further down the path is a 40-foot tall column.
 



Flowstone
Flowstone, as the name suggest, is formed as water flows down the walls of a cave, depositing minerals as it goes.  Cave bacon and drapery, or curtains, are two examples of flowstone.


 

Cave Bacon


Cave bacon is formed from mineral deposits as water runs down the walls of the cave.  The layers of the cave bacon can take on different colors depending on the impurities in the water, resulting in the thin layers of stripped calcite resembling bacon in appearance.
 
This cave bacon is part of a larger wall of cave bacon - a wall often called the "waterfall wall" because it looks like a frozen waterfall.
 



 

Cave Drapery


Cave drapery, also known as curtains, is simply large cave bacon.  Due to its size it resembles large curtains hanging from the cave wall, instead of slices of bacon.

This particular drapery is located beside the cave's largest column.
 




Formations From Water Seeping

Some of the most unique formations are formed as water seeps through the pores in the limestone.  Onyx Cave is a best know for its abundance of cave coral, which is formed from seeping water.

 

Cave Coral


Cave coral forms as water seeps through the pores in the limestone pushing out the minerals as it emerges.

Onyx Cave is best known for the abundance of cave coral that covers its wall.  Cave coral can be seen on the walls as well as on pieces of cave bacon and columns throughout the cave.
 



 

Needltites


Needltites are a special form of cave coral.  They have sharp points, just like needles.
 
 

Helictites


Helictites are twisted calcite structures,
created from capillary action.  Water flows through a central canal and pushes out calcite minerals creating formations that defy gravity. 

This helictite photo was taken at the bottom of a 35-foot vertical shaft.