If you want to discover one of the most amazing collections of stalactites, stalagmites, mirrored pools, and similar wonders of nature, then this amazing cave in Virginia should be on your bucket list.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Luray Caverns, a natural tourist attraction that makes you stand in awe.
1. It’s located near the town with the same name
Luray Caverns, originally known as “Luray Caves,” is a fascinating cave complex located just west of the Blue Ridge in Virginia, a subrange of the Appalachian Mountain Range. It was named after the town that is located just nearby, Luray.
This small town has about 5,000 inhabitants and was named after the birthplace of the first settlers in the region, a town called Luray in northern France.
It’s situated in the Shenandoah Valley, a magnificent landscape in between the Potomac River to the north and the James River to the south.
2. The cave was only discovered in the year 1878
Even though the cave was most certainly known by the Native Americans that lived in the area, the first Americans didn’t discover it until the year 1878.
5 local men noticed a limestone outcrop near a sinkhole and started digging to find a cave on August 13 of that year. Just a couple of hours later they managed to create an entrance to the cave into which some of the men could be lowered with a rope.
The first column they came across inside the cave was named the “George Washington Column” in honor of the first President of the United States.
3. The Giants Hall features stalactites over 50 feet (15 meters) tall
The cave complex features a wide variety of speleothems, geological formations formed by mineral deposits. The most famous speleothems are stalagmites and stalactites but there are also columns, flowstones, and mud flows inside this fascinating underground miracle.
The most prominent feature inside the cave is a room referred to as the “Giant’s Hall.” If you enter this remarkable space, you’ll instantly understand why it was called this way.
Many of the stalactites in this section of the cave exceed a height of 50 feet (15 meters), an incredible sight to behold.
4. There are hundreds of basins inside the cave that create mirror pools
Some of the most fascinating features inside Luray Caverns are so-called “cascades.” These resemble magnificent waterfalls that have been transformed into white alabaster. These can be quite high as well, with Brand’s Cascade reaching a height of about 40 feet (12 meters).
The stalagmites and stalactites inside the caves become even more impressive in combination with the hundreds of water basins that are located here. These range from 1 to 50 feet (0.30 to 15.24 meters) in diameter and become reflecting as the man-made light shines into them.
One of these amazing spectacles is referred to as “Dream Lake.” Here, the stalagmites appear to be stalactites because of the reflection in the water. Even though the trompe l’oeil in this section of the cave is very potent, the lake only has a maximum depth of 20 inches (51 centimeters).
5. Its most famous attraction is a man-made musical instrument
Did you know that the magnificent speleothems inside the cave are capable of producing music?
That’s because a special feature called the “Great Stalacpipe Organ” was built during the 1950s by a man named Leland W. Sprinkle. He got the idea after visiting the caves on his son’s birthday in 1954 and completed the work just 3 years later.
This giant lithophone is operated with an electrical console that interconnects countless stalactites. This in turn resembles a huge pipe organ that can produce music.
The instrument interconnects stalactites over a distance of 3.5 acres (14,000 square meters) but it can be heard inside every part of the 64-acre (260,000 square meters) cave complex, quite amazing!
More interesting facts about Luray Caverns
6. Even though the men that discovered the cave complex acquired the property shortly after, this purchase was nullified in April 1881. That’s because they kept the discovery of the cave secret.
The value of the land increased significantly after the news of the discovery came to light. This resulted in litigation and the purchase being nullified by the Supreme Court of Virginia.
7. The commercial potential of the caves was quickly realized and it was, therefore, sold multiple times the first decades following its discovery. It was eventually purchased by the “Luray Caverns Company” in 1893.
A magnificent wonder of nature like this pretty much promotes itself and the visitor numbers quickly grew over the years, reaching about 18,000 by 1906. Today, Luray Caverns is visited by about half a million people every year.
8. Another amazing feature inside the cave is the magnificent flowstone draperies. Even though these can be found in just about any major rooms inside the cave, one of these, in particular, is deemed to be quite special.
This flowstone drapery is called “Saracen’s Tent” and is considered to be the most well-formed flowstone drapery in the world. It’s hard to deny this notion when you see this magnificent natural miracle, right?
9. The rooms inside the cave vary significantly in size. The ultimate depth of the lowest room, measured from the entrance of the cave, is situated at a depth of 260 feet (79 meters) below ground level.
The entire roundtrip of the cave is about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) long. Just like, for example,” Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, the temperature inside the cave is a constant 54 °F (12 °C), so you pretty much need to bring a jacket when visiting during the summer months.
10. One of the most remarkable rock formations, which is located near the entrance of the cave, is called the “Fried Eggs.” The resemblance to a pan of frying eggs is quite astounding.
11. The caves have been designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1974. The impressing nature of this cave complex was already recognized much earlier, though. A report created in 1880 by the Smithsonian Institution mentioned this about the natural wonder:
It is safe to say that there is probably no other cave in the world more completely and profusely decorated with stalactite and stalagmite ornamentation than that of Luray.
12. If we have to choose one feature inside the cave that stands out from the rest, then it would be the “Wishing Well.” Here you can not only admire a green pond inside the cave but also throw a coin and make a wish.
It also features a remarkable illusion. Even though this pond only appears to be about 3 feet (91 centimeters) deep, it has a maximum depth of 7 feet (2.13 meters).