Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Caverns of Luray - II

Compared to our expectations, the Luray (VA) Caverns are huge.

There was no need to duck under low ceilings or squeeze through narrow walkways. Visitors can "explore cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings 10 stories high, filled with towering stone columns and crystal-clear pools" ( (Members of our tour group are shown in the lower portion of the photo above.)

The walkways are brick and concrete and wide enough for easy walking. The entire length of the "route" is wheelchair accessible.

The entire viewing area is well-lit, ranging from distant formations lighted by lights that flood a large area

to spots that are highlighted with a lamp tucked behind part of a nearby formation, such as the "ice cream cone" (right).

"Originally in the 1870's and into the early 1900's, wooden planks were used along the pathways even though many areas remained as found by the discoverers--hard dirt and smooth calcite flooring called travertine.

"In September of 1878, as the co-discoverers began preparation to open the caverns for visitors, Benton Stebbins insisted upon an admission charge of fifty cents per person to slow the flow of visitors and idle curiosity seekers who were asked to wait until the improvements were completed so they could see the cave at its best advantage.

"The first Grand Illumination took place on November 6, 1878. Two hundred people from all over the county and as far as Arlington, Virginia, came to it. From early morning until two or three o'clock, wagons, carriages and horseback riders poured into town on the way to the opening of the great caverns though only partially lighted, presented an imposing

subterranean spectacle. A thousand candles illuminated the antechamber making it nearly as bright as day.

"A second Illumination was set for December 27, 1878. Admission would be a dollar per adult and fifty cents for children. A band was hired with an additional twenty-five cent charge for anyone who wished to
dance on the newly constructed floor in the Ball Room area of Giant's Hall. More than six hundred people paid admission making this second Illumination a great success" (

As usual, we had fallen behind the group to take more photos, so we missed the identification of the components of the different forms and colors of the formations.

But, I believe this formation (left) is called Titania's Veil. "This shimmering white formation is pure calcite, the result of spreading crystalline deposits. These deposits, commonly called flowstone, spread laterally coating walls or ceilings. The Smithsonian Institution commented, 'Here in this studio of nature are reproductions of all those objects which are wont to fill the mind with pleasure, wonder – objects whose multiplicity, variety and splendor would exhaust the whole literature of mythic and fairy lore in providing names for their infinite diversity of beauty.' Titania's Veil was named for Shakespeare's Fairy Queen from his play A Midsummer Night's Dream" (

Shown below is a stalctite that had fallen from above.

This pair may have a special designation, but I do not know it.

A final visit awaits after another break.

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