Beautiful Luray Caverns, Virginia
Luray Caverns, Virginia - Dream Lake reflects like a mirror
Luray Caverns is like the Grand Canyon Caves! It seemed like there was a bigger room every time we turned a corner on the self-guided path in this underground redwood forest. It was immense, colossal, beautiful and awe-inspiring.
In the big scheme of the world I’d have to say I’m not really a “cave person”. Growing up, my mom and Aunt Thelma were captivated by the concept of going under ground, and growing up where I did, there were three fairly large commercial caves within an hour. Heck one of them was 10 minutes from home - so we visited them often.
These caves are all really cool (literally in the summer) and serve up their quota of stalagmites and stalactites. They are all equally beautiful and offer visitors a once in a lifetime memory or two. Unless you go three times a year since you were 6 and then it all starts to become a bit ho hum. So when we decided to run off to Virginia and visit Luray Caverns I was like “okay - that could be fun” but deep down (get it? See what I did there?) I was just like “yay - another cave.”
Well folks, let me tell you, Luray Caverns is not just another cave. This place is massive! It even has it’s own pipe organ, made of cave parts! And it’s beautiful! The Smithsonian Institution in an 1880 report said, “There is probably no other cave in the world more completely and profusely decorated with stalactite and stalagmite ornamentation than that of Luray.”
Luray Caverns was discovered in 1878 by some local guys who saw a large protruding limestone out crop next to a sink hole that had “cool air flowing from it” so these guys started to dig and about four hours later were able to lower the skinny guy through the hole that they created. I don’t know about you, but in a case like this, I’d be praying to be fat! Anyway, the skinny guy was lowered by rope and with nothing more than his trusty candle, he took a look inside and saw bones, human bones as best as he could tell. Turns out, Native Americans knew about the cave for a long time and possibly even lived in there. It gets hot in Virginia - it would be nice to cook and eat meals in the air conditioning.
Various groups of owners fought for the right to call it their own for about 20 years, all thinking they would most likely get rich from this magnificent crevice. But it wasn’t until a young travel writer from the New York Times happened upon the place that actually made it famous. And famous it is, today about a half a million people visit the caverns each year taking the winding path to the mouth of the cave. They walk through the doors and don their jackets or sweatshirts and proceed on their mile and a half trek through an underground garden that took millions of years to create. I’m proud and thrilled to say I got to be one of them this year!
Pam and John Kane - The Funchasers
Luray Caverns was designated in 1974 by the Department of the Interior as a National Natural Landmark. The geology of this place is grand and big and in your face. There are of course stalagmites and stalactites but there are also flowstones and drip stones and underground lakes that are so clear you think you‘re looking into a mirror (first picture at the top called Dream Lake). Some of the formations are brown, others red and others as white as snow. I’m certainly not a geologist, but the pamphlet I’m holding the picture above said the color is caused by impurities like copper and iron.
Luray Caverns, VA - Saracen’s Tent
Luray Caverns boasts of having one of the best preserved flowstone exhibits in the world. This particular formation is called a drapery and referred to as Saracen’s Tent. If you bang on the formation with your knuckles, it will ring like a bell.
This fact intrigued a person a number of years ago at Luray Caverns to the point that he spent years tuning the stalactites and created the only stalacpipe organ known to man. According to the Luray Caverns website (www.LurayCaverns.com) The Great Stalacpipe Organ is the largest musical instrument in the world. It was designed by Leland Sprinkle in 1956. You know, my husband John has had some wild ideas but can you imagine the look on Leland’s wife’s face when he came home and said, “Honey, I think I’d like to turn that cave down the road into an organ.” She was cooking dinner and just nodded and then a few minutes later looked at him and said, “what on earth are you talking about?!?!” The amount of work it must have taken to finely tune each stalactite and stalagmite to match all 88 keys on the organ is remarkable and incredible. The sound is produced by tapping the ancient formations with small rubber mallets in a precise location to get the sound that is tuned to the key that you’re pressing.
Just picture it if you will. There’s Leland walking around with his tuning fork for three years saying “nope I want a b flat - not an a sharp” (musicians in the group will get the reference.)
Luray Caverns, VA - World Famous Stalacpipe Organ
Having heard this amazing piece of musicianship, I am certainly glad that Leland was picky and for that matter had the idea in the first place. It truly is a masterpiece.
Trust me when I tell you that the small amount of pictures I have in this blog do nothing for the majesty of this place. This is one of those recommendations I give you that you REALLY have to see for yourself.
Luray Caverns is located in Luray, Virginia in the heart of the Shanandoah Valley next to the Skyline Drive. Okay - wait there are a couple other cool things I need to tell you about. For instance, if you have a Giant or Martins Grocery card you get a discount on tickets. I know - cool - right?
Okay, there are a couple more. After you’ve toured the cave you can treat yourself to ice cream, tour the antique car museum, take a stroll through the amazing gardens or do what we did - The Rope Course! Did I mention is gets really hot in Virginia? This day, it was about 96 degrees outside with a humidity scale of about a million and we decided to climb onto a rope course. Sigh! It was fun, but the sweat kept pouring in my eyes. Rozzie was a real trooper, at first she was terrified, but after she got over her initial “I’m going to fall and die” response she stayed up there for about an hour. I got tired and left her there with her dad.
So if you want to take a beautiful fall drive, head to the Shenandoah Valley, on Interstate 81 about an hour south of Hagerstown, Maryland. Take a drive on the the Skyline Drive in The Shenandoah National Park. There is an admission fee to the National Park, but that is soooooo worth it. Take the Luray exit and spend a few uninterrupted hours admiring the beauty of the place. Tell them The Funchasers sent you and for heavens sake HAVE FUN!
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Here are some useful links to help you plan your journey:
Luray Caverns - www.LurayCaverns.com
Shenandoah National Park - www.nps.gov
The Funchasers! www.thefunchasers.com
The Funchasers You Tube Channel - www.YouTube.com/thefunchasers
We will be publishing a You Tube adventure of Luray Caverns in the coming days. Stay Tuned!
Luray Caverns, VA Dream Lake