Cathedral Caverns

Cathedral Caverns, Alabama

The Cathedral Cavern is located in Alabama and has been recognized as a state park since 2000. Previously, the cavern was privately owned as a private attraction from the mid-50s to the mid-70s. 

However, locals and tourists flock to the cavern to bask in its beauty. The cavern is full of amenities and sightseeing attractions, along with ample opportunity to experience its beauty from the outside. Fun fact: the Cathedral Caverns was the cave setting for Disney's Tom and Huck. 

History Of The Cathedral Cavern

Located in the Cumberland Plateau physiographic section of Alabama, the Cathedral Cavern was created between 350 to 320 million years ago. Its creation falls within the Mississippian geological period, which is when limestone was deposited within the area. Almost 8,000 years ago, First Nations people provided proof that humans used the cave due to the excavation which formed the mouth of the cavern. 

More recently, however, the cavern was originally titled Bats Cave by owner Jay Gurley. In 1955 Gurley began giving private tours of the cavern which he and his wife believed had a cathedral-like aesthetic. Later in 1972, the cavern would be deemed a National Natural Park. Unfortunately, just two years later, Gurley would stumble into financial trouble, selling the cave at auction to another private seller.

By 1987, the state of Alabama purchased the cave along with the 461 acres of land which surrounded it. However, funding delays pushed back the cavern's initial opening day which wasn't until 2000. Finally, residents of Alabama and tourists are able to enjoy the cave for all it has to offer. 

Geography Of The Cathedral Cavern

Although the cavern in its entirety is stunning, the sheer size of its entrance tends to leave visitors in awe. Measuring in at 25 feet high and 126 feet wide, its entrance is large enough to compete for a commercial cave world record. Inside the cavern, there are two miles of mapped trails. However, most believe that there are many unchartered passages. 

The cavern's largest chamber is called the Big Room and was measured at 792 feet long and 200 feet wide. About 2700 feet of the passage remains not open to the public, including a crystal room that is full of fragile pure white calcite. It is closed off due to its fragile nature as the heat, humidity, and movement of visitors could disrupt its natural beauty. 

Formations In The Cathedral Cavern

Cathedral caverns
The stalagmites in the caves of Cathedral Cavern.

Cathedral Cavern is home to "Goliath," one of the largest stalagmites in the entire world. The formation is 45 feet tall and has a circumference of 243 feet. The cavern also contains a large stalagmite forest alongside a somewhat improbable stone formation which measures 27 feet tall and a mere 3 inches wide. Finally, there is a flowstone wall that is 135 feet long and resembles a frozen waterfall. 

Attractions At The Cathedral Cavern 

The cavern's main attraction is its hour-long cave tour which brings visitors through all of the previously chartered trails. While in the cave, visitors are exposed to the formations and geography mentioned above. The cave is open year-round from 9 am to 6 pm. However, guided tours range based on the time of year. From March 15 to August 31, the earliest tour leaves at 10:15 am, and the latest tour leaves at 4 pm. From September 1 to March 14, the earliest tour leaves at 10 am, and the latest leaves at 4 pm. 

Cathedral Cavern is known for much more than its cave. As it is a protected park, there is a welcome center to direct and greet guests. Picnic areas surround the cave to make for a more inclusive feel, and there is even the opportunity to tent camp in designated areas. 


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