The Rural Underground: Seven State Parks with Caves

What better time to learn about and plan a visit to a cave than this…

What better time to learn about and plan a visit to a cave than this year, dubbed the first ever  International Year of Caves and Karst by the International Union of Speleology. Karst can be found worldwide where water has gradually worn away rock, usually limestone, over millions of years. This erosion forms caves and related structures like natural bridges, sinkholes, and sinking streams. Karst caves contain spectacular speleothems (cave formations) like stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, columns, curtains, and boxwork.

Beyond the awe factor, caves are important ecologically, culturally, and historically. According to the National Park Service, up to 40% of ground drinking water in the U.S. is from karst aquifers. They harbor rare, endemic, and endangered species which rely on the specialized cave environment.

Caves provide a window into our collective past. Their history is measured in millions of years. By studying them, we can better understand how the earth was formed and changed through millennia. Artifacts like pictographs, tools, and Mayan objects were preserved in cave environments and give us insights into how our forebearers lived in this place.