Ultimate Guide to Cathedral Caverns (Tours, Pricing, History)
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If you’re looking for the ultimate guide to Cathedral Caverns, then this is it! We’ll cover everything from tours to pricing and history. This national monument has been a tourist destination for years and we’ll tell you all about how tourists have enjoyed their time at this amazing site. If you haven’t yet made your way out to visit Cathedral Caverns, what are you waiting for?
If your family is “into” visiting interesting places and you have an interest in caves, Cathedral Caverns in Alabama is a “must see.”
Ultimate Guide to Cathedral Caverns (Tours, Pricing, History)
Catherderal Caverns is a natural wonder that has been around for over 300 million years. It is one of the most impressive karst caves in North America and it was discovered by chance when someone contacted to search for iron ore deposits. The name “cathedral” comes from its majestic beauty, while others say this place resembles an underground Roman cathedral with columns and arches all throughout.
What are Karst caves?
They could also be called a solution cave – as it is usually formed in limestone – by the simple process of the acid in the groundwater slowly breaking it down. We have talked about other Karst Caves like Mammoth Cave National Park, of Kentucky.
What’s the difference between a cavern and a cave?
A cave is an area of the earth’s surface that has openings to a below ground level. Caverns are usually deeper than caves, as they have been carved out by water or dissolved rock over time. They can also be man-made and not natural at all – this means people have purposefully dug caverns into the earth for different purposes (e.g., mining).
History of Cathedral Caverns
The history is unclear as to when Cathedral Caverns was first discovered, but it has been around for thousands of years. The earliest written reference to the cave dates back to 1885 in an article from “Southern News” by Lewis Hallam titled “Mammoth Cave or Alabama’s Subterranean Wonder.
The caverns were originally occupied by native Americans. Archaeologists found pieces of pottery and arrowheads from their Archaeological excavations at the mouth of Cathedral Caverns that have indicated occupation by Native Americans as recently as 200 years ago and perhaps as early as 7000 BCE.
The area around the caverns was settled by the Kennamer family and became known as Kennamers Cove. During the Civil War, the Kennamer family lived in the cave for an extended period of time after their farmhouse was burned down by Union soldiers.
It was rediscovered and explored by Jay Gurley. He sold everything he owned to buy the cave in 1952 and maintained it as a tourist attraction. He installed paths and lighting and opened it to the public in 1955.
It was sold at auction in November of 1975 to Tom German for $120,000. Under Tom’s ownership, he added more facilities to the property such as a souvenir shop, picnic areas with barbecue pits and tables available for rent so visitors could bring their own food or purchase it at the park’s concession stand. He also installed new lighting systems throughout the caverns and opened a new section of the caverns to visitors.
Tom then sold it to the State of Alabama in 1987. After funding delays, the state began restoration work in 1995. The cavern was re-opened to the public as Cathedral Caverns State Park in May 2000.
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Cathedral Caverns Fun Facts
- The Cave maintains an average 62-degree weather condition all year round.
- You can host your wedding at the cave – yeah, nature makes the way clear for you.
- The cavern’s entrance measures an average of 128 feet wide and 25 feet high – imagine the earth taking a quick yawn!
- Cathedral Cavern has one of the world’s largest stalagmites – a column connected between a stalagmite and stalactite. The column measures 45 feet tall and 243 feet in circumference. It is nicknamed “Goliath.”
- American Indians could be the first inhabitants of the cavern dating back to 2000 years ago.
- There is a room in the cavern known as Crystal Room which features pure white calcite that is too vulnerable to allow human entrance. The mere vibration of the human voice can cause possible jerking of the calcite and destroy them.
- There is a “frozen waterfall” in the cave – yeah, it looks exactly like you imagine it. It measures an interesting 32 feet tall and over 134 feet long.
- After discovering the cavern in 1995, Hollywood took the opportunity to shot a movie at the cave – Tom and Huck.”
- It was formerly known as Bat Cave.
Cathedral Caverns Wildlife
Cathedral Caverns is home to some interesting wildlife, from animals to plants and sea-based plants. There are numerous bat species found in the cavern, such as the eastern pipistrelle and big brown bats – these are the most common. Interestingly, they feed on insects and generally lock away when it comes to the colder seasons.
Other critters and crawlers are going around the cavern that you might come across during your tours. In addition, various weeds grow in the cavern, especially seeing a water body inside the cave.
Cathedral Caverns Geological Formations
Like many caves around the world, Cathedral Cavern features many formations and does have some of the world’s most intriguing ones. There are numerous stalactites and stalagmites found in this cave that will capture your attention when you get a chance to see them.
Stalactites – Parts of the cavern features limestone, and seeing there is a water body flowing through the cavern, it is more than likely for flow to occur. The minerals mixed with the water have given way for many stalactites to form in the cavern.
Stalagmites – Every stalactite that forms in the cavern contributes to a stalagmite being formed. These are enhanced with the body of water that flows through the cavern, and minerals are deposited each time the water passes a certain region.
Column – Cathedral Cavern has one of the largest cave columns globally that measures around 45 feet tall and 243 feet in complete circumference. For sure, this is a lot of mineral and calcite captured through liquid flow from the cavern ceiling.
Frozen Waterfall – This is one of the most interesting formations in the cavern, and it will leave you in awe. It is visualized as you imagine it to be…a waterfall that has frozen as it flows from the roof of the cavern to the floor. It was formed millions of years ago.
Portions of Cathedral Caverns are not open to the public. One such area is called the Crystal Room. The formations are pure white calcite, and no more than the vibrations from someone’s voice would shatter over 70 percent of the formations.
Cathedral Caverns Tours
Cathedral Caverns offers nature lovers and enthusiasts the opportunity to explore the inner linings of the cavern through guided tours. Tours generally last for around 90 minutes, and the round-trip tour cover a total of 1.5 miles.
Tours are available seven days a week, and reservations should be made no more than 48 hours before a set tour time. Tour spaces can be reserved over the phone, but a nonrefundable full payment has to be made.
In addition, when going for your scheduled tour, ensure you are there at least 15 minutes before it begins for final prepping. Tour groups match up to 50% cavern capacity.
There is only ONE tour here – not an option of several to choose from like some caves.
Cathedral Caverns Prices and Discounts
The prices to enter Cathedral Caverns vary depending on who is entering and if you are doing so from a select institution. In general, the cost for persons 13 years and older is $20, while ages 5-12 pay a $9 fee. Children four years and under accompanied by a paying adult enters for free.
- For schools, students pay an amount of $8, while chaperons pay an amount of $15.
- For teachers entering with a school group, the cost could be free but should check with the information desk for further details and special offers.
- Military personnel enters with an $18 fee.
- Groups of 25 or more with reservation pay an amount of $15
** Please note, however, prices are subjected to change without notice, so it is best to check with the information desk for any updates or call them at (256) 728-8193. **
Where to Stay Near Cathedral Caverns
You will want to stick around when it comes to visiting Cathedral Caverns as this is the starting point to a memorable experience like no other. If you happen to be searching for a cool place to stay, you can choose from any of the following or search around for some other amazing lodge…
The Westin Huntsville Hotel
The Westin Huntsville Hotel is rated as the only AAA Four Diamond-rated hotel in the region and is a mix of class, classic southern style, elegance, and relaxing. It is closely linked to the Bridge Street Town Center and Huntsville Cummings Research Park. It is also in close range to other historical sites located in the region.
Booking your stay at the Westin Huntsville will see you benefit from amazing features and amenities. These include indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness studio, business center, free wifi, family room, and suites made perfect for relaxation. Reach out to them today to get that home away from home experience.
Springhill Suites by Marriott Huntsville West/Research Park
The amenities featured in this hotel are ones to “die for” as they create an ambiance of relaxation, peace of mind, and “freedom” from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You are bound to enjoy the experience as the suites are spacious and super elegant. The Springhill Suites by Marriott Huntsville West/Research Park is in close range to other amazing and historic sites around the city.
The staff is great, and you can relax in their pool or lounge where you can unwind with friends and family. You will also get some great food in the process! Call them up as soon as you are ready to visit and hang around the area.
Places To Stay Nearby
Cathedral Caverns Details
- Length: 1.5 Miles (Round Trip)
- Time recommended: 90 Minutes
- Trail Type: Loop
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Kid-Friendly: Yes
- Dog-Friendly: Yes, but on leash
- Accessibility: Parking Lot
- Fee/Permit: Varies
- Hours: 10 am to 4 pm (Reservation for tours start at 8 am, and the last tour is at 4 pm)
How to Get to Cathedral Caverns
Cathedral Caverns is located in Kennamer Cove and is roughly 5 miles northeast of Grant and an average of 7 miles southeast of Woodville in Marshall County. See, you might not even be far away.
There aren’t many caves that are fairly easily accessible to the general public. But Cathedral Caverns is one of the few where those who aren’t about to crawl through unexplored and pristine caves can taste some of the wonders of the world underground.
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