Ultimate Guide to DeSoto Caverns, Alabama (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)
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DeSoto Caverns is one of the most frequented show caves in the US. The caverns are located close to Birmingham. It is a unique place where you can learn about the prehistoric Indians who lived and died in the caverns and about the Confederate soldiers who mined gunpowder.
Apart from the cave, the park has several other attractions which would be of particular interest to families with kids.
DeSoto Caverns, Alabama
The Native Americans came to know of this cave during the Woodland Period, and in 1965 archaeologists of the University of Alabama chanced upon a 2000-year-old Native American burial site that had the remains of five individuals. Records suggest that in 1723, an Indian trader from South Carolina rested for a few nights in the cave when he was traveling through the area.
During his stay in the caves, he carved his name “I.W.Wright 1723” in a rock wall in the cave. These are the oldest recorded graffiti that can be found in any US Cave. It is to be noted that the Caverns were formed because of the deposit of dolomite limestone around 500 million years ago. However, the cave is only about 3 million years in age.
How big is DeSoto Caverns?
Initially, it was thought that DeSoto Caverns was one colossal cave system, but explorations have revealed that the cave continues for some distance beyond the main room at only one place. The cave continues for around 300 hundred yards and ends at a blank wall and a small pool of water.
There are no other unexplored routes inside the cave. The main room of this cave is more than ten stories high which makes it larger than a football field. The entrance has been enlarged a bit from the earlier size when it was 4 ft in height.
History of DeSoto Caverns
Located in North Central Alabama, the DeSoto Caverns is a great place for spelunkers. It has an impressive collection of limestone formations that are revered throughout the country. But do you know who the first settlers of this cave were? Well, this cave has a long history.
The earliest inhabitants of the cave were the Archaic man (around 1000 BC), who lived on fish, nuts, and small animals. The Spanish explored the caves in the 1500s. In 1796, Benjamin Hawkins wrote about the beauty of the DeSoto Caverns in a report making it the first officially reported cave in the US. When the Civil War broke out, the caverns became an important site for mining saltpeter used to make gunpowder for the Confederate Army.
The caverns were officially opened to visitors in 1965. The high-powered electric lights helped accentuate the beauty of the caverns, and all appreciated the arrangement. Today, DeSoto Caverns is an important tourist attraction in Alabama and the US, and it hosts many weekend festivals every year.
Geological Cave Formations in DeSoto Caverns
The caves in the DeSoto Caverns have several natural limestone formations such as stalagmites and stalactites, columns, onyx formations, flowstones, and rock curtains. There was also a natural waterfall inside the cave, but it gradually dried up. An equally beautiful artificial waterfall has now replaced it.
Wildlife in DeSoto Caverns
There are different kinds of flora and fauna in Northeast Alabama. When you are in DeSoto Caverns, blind cave fish, blind crayfish, salamanders and bats.
DeSoto Caverns Tours
The DeSoto Caverns is a unique attraction in Alabama. Apart from the beautiful caves, it offers excellent aboveground attractions such as amusement park rides, light and water shows, and a maze. It is a popular tourist attraction in Alabama and receives around 100,000 visitors each year.
The DeSoto Caverns Guided Cave Tour is an hour-long tour. It includes a walk through the iconic Healing – All Cathedral Room, the onyx room, the back passageway that leads to a natural waterfall, and mesmerizing laser light and water show. The guides always encourage the visitors to take photographs as the cave boasts of having the most extensive collection of gemstone quality onyx in the US.
DeSoto Caverns Tour Prices and Discounts
If the history of this place is of interest to you or want to have an in-depth look, you would be pleased to know that the hour-long guided caverns tour is a perfect opportunity to get a closer view of the caverns.
- Children aged three and under are granted free entry into the park, but tickets are required for children who are 4 to 11 years of age. Senior tickets are given out for those who are 65 years or older.
- Prices for All-inclusive gate wristbands: Adults – USD 49.99, Child/Senior – USD 44.99. Guided Caverns Tour is included.
- The Caverns Tour and Entertainment packages come a bit cheaper at USD 29.99 for adults. It includes the Guided Caverns Tour, and you can save further by adding a meal for only USD 10.99.
- Looking to save some cash? You should come here during June and enjoy a discount of USD 15 on the price of all-inclusive guest wristbands on Mondays. One needs to purchase the tickets from the gift shop at the park before 11:30 am on Mondays.
Is DeSoto Caverns Cold?
The temperature inside the Caverns is not particularly cold. It remains at 60 degrees F throughout the year. It is refreshing and cool in the summer, while in winter, the temperature is a bit warmer.
What to Wear?
DeSoto Caverns loves to adhere to a family-friendly environment, and, for this reason, a dress code has been enforced at this attraction. Proper attire must always be worn, which includes shirts and appropriate footwear. Clothing with graphics is not at all permitted.
Since there is a steep ramped-up tunnel at the cave entrance, it is recommended that visitors wear shoes with proper grip. There is also a handrail for steadying yourself if you wear shoes with a smooth bottom.
DeSoto Caverns Hours
The caverns remain open from Friday to Monday, and the hours are as follows –
- Friday: 10 am to 5:30 pm
- Saturday: 9 am to 5:30 pm
- Sunday: 11 am to 5:30 pm
- Monday: 10 am to 5:30 pm
The caverns are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
What to Do at DeSoto Caverns (Beside Tours)
If you thought that DeSoto Caverns was only about caves, then you are seriously wrong! There are lots of interesting things to do here apart from the cave tours, and if you are coming with a family, they will have a gala time here. The kids will love all the whacky attractions that they have in store for the visitors.
Destiny Express Train
It is an old-fashioned locomotive that will take you around the park. At each turn, you will be able to savor the natural beauty of the land, and the journey is great for groups and small families.
DeSoto’s Lost Trail Maze
It is a classic maze spread over 3/4th acre and can be explored by people of all ages. There are three towers, and the onus lies on you to travel to each of these towers and collect a different traveler’s stamp on the ticket.
It is a great activity for the little ones in your group. The Park Host will be happy to help them understand how to find the treasures. One can find a wide range of semi-precious stones like onyx and pyrite.
More to do at DeSoto Caverns
There are endless opportunities to have fun at the DeSoto Caverns. You can put your climbing skills to the test at the Wall Climb, play a round of golf at the Water Golf area, or challenge yourself at the ten hoop course if you are into basketball. These are not all –
- Crystal Find – search the sand for beautiful crystals
- Cannon Wars – challenge your family members in the air cannon game
- Bow & Arrow Shoot – test your skills at the bow and arrow shooting range
If you are still not convinced, you can go camping on the campground located right on the property. It will be lot of fun and adventure for everyone!
Best Time to Visit DeSoto Caverns
The DeSoto Caverns is a beautiful place to make lasting memories. The best time to come here would be the months of May and June. The temperature in the caverns would be cool irrespective of the weather outside. There are also several fantastic deals in these two months for the visitors of DeSoto Caverns.
How to Get to DeSoto Caverns?
Getting to DeSoto Caverns is not difficult at all if you follow the road directions carefully. However, it is essential to note that relying on GPS to locate the caverns is not a good idea as the results are unreliable and can lead you in the wrong direction.
If you are coming from Birmingham, Alabama
Take I-59 North to Exit #218. Turn right onto AL Highway # 35. After driving for 1 mile, one must turn left at the Alabama Band Fan Club. After 1 ½ mile, turn right at the Fort Payne City Park, onto AL Highway 35. Follow AL Highway 35 up the Lookout Mountain. When you reach the mountaintop, turn left at the caution light onto County Road 89
You will reach DeSoto State Park after around 6 miles.
Hotels near DeSoto Caverns
If you are averse to camping, then do not fret as there are several good hotel options near DeSoto Caverns, such as Kay West Inn & Days Inn by Wyndham.
Places To Stay Nearby
Download our FREE DeSoto Caverns Guide (unofficial)
Is DeSoto Caverns Haunted?
There have been no reports or anything to suggest that DeSoto Caverns is haunted, and there have been no instances of supernatural events in the caverns. However, the caverns are decked up during annual festivals like Halloween, and theme parties occasionally are arranged here. It is a safe and excellent tourist attraction.
Visiting DeSoto Caverns
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