When a cruise planned with the grand kids on Beaver Lake got canceled because of thunderstorms in the area, Kaitlyn, Jacob, and I went to "Plan B" for our day trip last month. Instead of exploring an above-ground lake, we got to explore some below-ground lakes! ( I mention this to explain why I have on white pants, which would have been suitable for a summer lake cruise. However, I would not recommend white attire for a cave tour! I came out looking like I was prepping for a Tide commercial!)
We went "down under", that is, the "down under", known as Cosmic Caverns, just outside Berryville, Arkansas, on Highway 21 North.
Most folks are familiar with the natural wonders of Arkansas above the ground, but there is another wilderness just beneath the surface. I am referring to the limestone caves of the Ozarks. Of the 2,000 documented caves in north Arkansas, 8 are privately owned, commercial tour caves, open to the public. In addition, the U.S. Forest Service operates Blanchard Springs Caverns, near Mountain View, Arkansas. (You can see the photos and text from previous blogs I wrote about Blanchard Springs Caverns in the Archives --Dec 6, 2009 and June 16. 2009--
, shown on the right)
, shown on the right)
Cosmic Caverns has several underground lakes, two of which are seen on tour. To date, divers have not been able to reach the bottoms of these lakes, so there is no accurate prediction of their depth. Our tour guide just used the old cliché "they go all the way to China"!
Photography (both still and video) is encouraged. Plus, since our tour group was small, we did not feel rushed or hampered when trying to take photos.
The tour guide pointed out this small formation, that was about the size of an orange. It was a tornado-shaped formation, that might be a hint that this would be a good place to be whenever there are tornado warnings in the area!
Even though Cosmic Caverns is said to be one of the warmest caves in Arkansas, at 62 degrees Fahrenheit, Jacob did not mind getting a hug to take the chill off, from his sister Kaitlyn.
If you have mobility or claustrophobia issues, this is probably not the outing for you. There were several passages one passed through, that were very confining.
This cat walk section above one of the bottomless lakes can be seen on the main tour, but is only accessed for those who take the Wild Cave Tour. That tour has some age and size restrictions, and requires advance reservations.
We learned that stalactites are those formations that hold on "tight" to the ceiling, as seen in this photo.
You might want to lubricate your joints, and practice "duck walking" before waddling through this passageway!
Some of the passages are so narrow that you have to suck in your gut, and proceed sideways, to make it through to the other side!
There are lots of stairs to navigate throughout the tour, but they have handrails, and are well lit.
The amount of stooping over you have to do on the tour is largely determined by how tall you are. The taller you are, the more you need to stoop to avoid bumping your head!
Our tour guide is seen at the top of this hidden chamber, as the rest of us ascend to see what treasures she is going to show us in that area!
Good thing Kaitlyn is an excellent gymnast, as there were lots of contortions needed to make it through to the end! Being deep in the earth like this always reminds me of the section of Psalm 139, that I call "The Expeditioner's Prayer". Verses 7 - 10 in The Message say this: "Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you're there! If I go underground, you're there! If I flew on morning's wings to the far western horizon, You'd find me in a minute---you're already there waiting!"
Kaitlyn and Jacob learned that stalagmites are the formations that "grow" from the bottom upwards. At this one location, the tour guide said it was OK to touch and hug the formations, and take all the photos we wanted! Otherwise, we were asked not to touch the formations, in order to reduce environmental damage from the oils/bacteria on our hands.
Since Cosmic Caverns is open year round, it is an attraction that can be enjoyed, regardless of what the "above ground" weather is doing! They have a picnic pavilion for guests, and plenty of free parking. You can find out more by visiting their website at www.cosmiccavern.com or phone 870-749-2298. This is a "cosmic" experience you can have, deep inside the earth, that will give you "MILES OF SMILES"!! Tricia