Ultimate Guide to Black Chasm Cavern, California (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)
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The Black Chasm Cavern, an important National Natural Landmark, is in the town of Volcano in California. The cave draws many visitors from far and near and is an ideal fun destination for the whole family.
The gold miners explored the cave in the 1800s, but they found only stalactites, stalagmites, and limestone helictites.
Black Chasm Cavern, California
The cavern is now a designated National Natural Landmark, and it welcomes visitors to a walking tour that takes them to the cave’s inner chambers. The Black Chasm Cavern is known to have the best helictites in the west.
For those unaware, helictites are rare crystal formations that can be found on cave walls. There are thousands of such helictites in these caves. Some of them resemble familiar creatures, and the tour guides have some lovely nicknames for them.
How Big is Black Chasm Cavern?
The total recorded length of the Black Chasm Cavern is 3136 ft and the depth of the cave, including the lake, is 225 ft, wherein 146 ft is above sea level.
History of Black Chasm Cavern
It is believed that the existence of the Black Chasm Cavern was known to the local Miwok tribes, but it is the gold miners who have been credited with the discovery of the beautiful cave in 1854. The miners were blown away by the enormity and beauty of the cave as they described the vaulted chambers as large enough to house the largest trees possible.
They also spoke about the large crystals jutting out from the walls in every possible direction, forming unique shapes that are a treat to watch. These formations are known as helictites, and they are found in several cave systems around the world. In the 1860s, the entrance of the cave was enlarged to accommodate stairs for the cave tours. The tours were there for only a brief period before the cave was abandoned altogether.
The Black Chasm Cavern almost faded from public memory. Still, it was rediscovered with a resurgence in the 1950s as spelunkers continued to explore the chasm and discovered the pristine beauty of the cavern. After more than 100 years of discovering the cavern, the federal government took notice of the abundance of the rare speleothems called helictites that grow in the cavern.
In 1976, the government described the cave as a National Natural Landmark. Around twenty years later, the Black Chasm Cavern started developing as a show cave, and steps and walkways were constructed. Today the visitors can explore the caverns with the help of these platforms and marvel at the dazzling range of crystals throughout the cave.
Geological Cave Formations in Black Chasm Cavern
The geological formations inside the cavern are truly remarkable. One would find many sparkling crystals protruding from the walls in every direction. The calcite formations known as helictites are geological treasures. These are delicate cave formations that are best enjoyed from a distance and not to be touched.
Helictites grow in such abundance that the government gave it the status of National Natural Landmark in 1976.
Wildlife in Black Chasm Cavern
The cavern is a warm cave and is not ideal for bat colonies. But it does not mean that there is no wildlife in these caverns. The lakes and puddles in the lower levels of the cavern are home to an amazing array of creatures, and some of these are known as Amphipods.
Since there is no light in the lakes, these crustacean-like creatures do not need eyes. They are tiny and look like shrimp from a distance. There is also a species of spider that has adapted to life in the caverns in a similar fashion.
Black Chasm Cavern Tours
The guided walking tour is of 50 min duration, and it departs from the Visitor Center. The tour group descends into the cave for approximately 100 ft below the surface. Since there are space constraints inside the cave, not more than 20 people are allowed, and entry is permitted strictly on a first-come, first-served basis.
The walking tours are an excellent way for the guests (any age) to explore the cavern. A wooden walkway has been constructed that will take you through the main room of the cavern, and you get to witness unique and beautiful rock formations hanging from the ceiling.
When you look down, you will view the mesmerizing mineral structures known as helictites jutting out from the floor of the cave. There are innumerable formations like stalactites, angel’s wings, stalagmites, and shapes that have been formed over thousands of years.
There is a beautiful blue lake in the 2nd chamber about 80 ft below the viewing platform. It is important to note that the cave is vertically oriented with three platforms and five flights of stairs. The walk is not particularly strenuous, but people with respiratory problems can give this tour a miss.
Are children allowed for the walking tour? Yes, the tour is child-friendly, and children can accompany their parents on this tour. If your child is more than eight years of age, he can sign up for the above-ground Labyrinth Tour of 3 hours duration.
Black Chasm Cavern Tour Prices and Discounts
The Black Chasm Cavern Tour is a beautiful experience that should not be missed at all. The tour prices are as follows –
- Adults (13 years and above) – USD 18.50
- Children (5 TO 12 years) – USD 10.00
- Children (under five years) – Free
If there is a school group, then reservations would be necessary. One can reserve in advance by calling on (888) 488 – 1960.
Is Black Chasm Cavern Cold?
The temperature inside the Black Chasm Cavern remains at 58 degrees F throughout the year. It does get chilly, especially during winter. So, if you are coming here in the winter, do remember to carry a light jacket with you.
What to Wear?
The temperature inside the cavern is on the cooler side throughout the year. When you come here, remember to wear suitable walking shoes and dress appropriately for the expected chill. If children are traveling with you, you must ensure that the young ones wear hard hats and safety goggles.
Black Chasm Cavern Hours
The cavern is operational on all days of the week from 10:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the evening.
What to Do at Black Chasm Cavern (Beside Tours)
The nearby attractions of Black Chasm Cavern are worth a visit if you have time in hand. The 1st stop could be the Indian Grinding Rock which is at a short distance from the caverns. The town of Volcano still has several buildings from the Gold Rush era, including the iconic St George Hotel, which has a restaurant on the 1st floor.
We do not recommend staying at this hotel as there is widespread speculation that the hotel is haunted! On-site, you can try your hand at gemstone mining using the bottomed screen boxes to look for treasures and even try gold panning, which is offered on-site.
Another option would be to visit the Visitor Center, a great place to gain valuable information about the Black Chasm Cavern. There is an on-site gift shop that has rocks and souvenirs for sale, and you will also get the tickets for the walking tour.
Best Time to Visit Black Chasm Cavern
The Cavern is open throughout the year; so, one can visit it anytime. However, many prefer to come here during the summers as the caves are naturally cool and offer some respite on hot summer days.
How to Get to Black Chasm Cavern
The cavern is located at Pioneer Volcano Road at Volcano, California. It takes under an hour or so to reach the cavern if you are driving from Sacramento.
From Sacramento Metro Area
Take Highway 16 towards Jackson, turn right on Highway 49 through Drytown. Then take a left at Ridge Road and 49. You are advised to follow the Ridge Road until it ends in Pine Grove and take a left turn
here. After driving for around a mile, take a left turn on Pinegrove-Volcano Road. Go straight for three miles and then take a sharp right onto Pioneer Volcano Road. The chasm will be on the right side after around half a mile.
If you want detailed directions from Tahoe or Stockton Metro Area, then you can click here.
Hotels near Black Chasm Cavern
There are many accommodation options near the cavern, but Volcano Union Inn deserves a special mention as it is just a kilometer away from the cavern. Other notable properties include Hotter Sutter and Best Western Amador Inn, although these two are a bit far away.
Places To Stay Nearby
Download our Black Chasm Cavern Guide (Unofficial):
Is Black Chasm Cavern Haunted?
The Black Chasm Caverns is one of the most famous caves in the state of California. It receives a lot of visitors in a year. There have never been any reports of mysterious sightings or paranormal activities that would suggest that this cave is haunted.
Visiting Black Chasm Cavern
Do you need more information before visiting the cavern? Call 1 (888) 488 – 1960 or fill in the online form for an information packet.
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