Living in Alabama, it’s easy to overlook the extraordinary natural beauty and biodiversity that our state has to offer. But there’s a hidden gem in North Alabama that will undoubtedly reignite your appreciation for the wonders of nature in our own backyard. It’s a place that demands to be seen – Cathedral Caverns: Alabama’s ancient marvel.
Cathedral Caverns, situated in northeast Alabama, close to the towns of Grant and Woodville, was initially made accessible to the public by the landowner, Bob Gurley, during the 1950s. Originally known as Bat Cave, the cave was renamed Cathedral Caverns by Gurley’s wife upon witnessing its awe-inspiring features. The cave showcases an expansive, cathedral-like opening, measuring an impressive 126 feet wide and 25 feet high.
The cave has gone through several owners throughout the years. It was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1972 and was eventually purchased by the state in 1987. In 2000, the cave was reopened as a state park. Cathedral Caverns State Park, spanning a total of 493 acres, offers scenic trails, camping, cabins, and various other outdoor activities. However, the true highlight of the park is the cave itself.
This cave is an ancient marvel, with its formation dating back millions of years. Archaeologists have extensively studied the cave and have discovered evidence suggesting that it was inhabited as early as 7,000 BCE, with occupation continuing until as recently as 200 years ago when white settlers first arrived in the region. During the Civil War, the area was known as Kennamer’s Cove, named after the Kennamer family who settled there. According to local folklore, the family sought refuge in the cave after their home was burned by Union soldiers.
Apart from its grand entrance, which is believed to be the largest of any commercial cave in North America, this cave boasts several unique features that are unparalleled anywhere else in the world. One such feature is “Goliath,” one of the largest cave stalagmites globally. Towering at an impressive height of 45 feet and measuring 243 feet in circumference, Goliath truly captivates visitors with its sheer size and grandeur.
The “Big Room”: This is the largest chamber in the cave, measuring an impressive 792 feet long by 200 feet wide!
The “Stalagmite Forest”: a breathtaking section of the cavern where numerous rock formations resemble a magnificent frozen forest.
Imagine standing before the awe-inspiring “Frozen Waterfall,” a magnificent 135-foot wall of flowstone that appears as if time itself has frozen a cascading waterfall in place.
The cave is truly impressive, spanning across several acres of underground passages. Visitors can explore the public area of the cave through an 8ft. wide concrete walkway that extends nearly a mile. Guided tours are available multiple times a day, ensuring that visitors have the opportunity to fully experience this natural wonder. Notably, the pathway is well-maintained and wheelchair accessible, making it a safe and enjoyable destination for families to explore. Throughout the year, the cave maintains a comfortable temperature of around 60 degrees. Recognized for its exceptional visitor experience, the site was honored with TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award in 2020 due to consistently high user reviews. For more information, please visit here the Cathedral Caverns State Park website.
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