Moaning? Yes, the Moaning Caverns. The caverns gets its name from the particular way water drips echo off the rocks. There is also another story by the local Indian tribe that the airflow through the cave entrance would moan and coax children to the opening who would then fall to their deaths. Or at the tour guide so aptly called it: “the 7 second tour.”
This cave is one of only a few like this in the United States, and it is one of the longest rappels into a cave in the entire country. It is not an experience that you are able to do very often.
After arriving you will check in at the gift shop to get your tickets for the cavern or the zip line or both. I ended up doing both.
The zip line is 1,500 feet long and has two lines right next to each other so you can go with a friend if your nervous. You can zip line with children in a front carry harness. You can also zip line and ride “superman style” by riding on your stomach with arms extended forward and legs back.
You’ll be fitted with your harness at a shack outside the gift shop. From there you will ride in a four wheel drive jeep up the hill to the bottom of the pavilion. Climb the pavilion and you are off to zip. You can go up to 30 MPH.
Once your done you take an easy walk back to the shack to turn in your gear. It is fun for all ages. The woman before us was 87 and was checking off an item on her bucket list!
Cave Walk or Rappel
Before you begin your decent your tour group will meet on the platform for some history.
A guide will explain the development of the cavern and how people of the area have used it. They have found some interesting things in the cave. Teeth, whisky bottles, garbage, and most interesting of all is a female child skull, that is 8,000 years old.
Depending on how you want to descend, you can rappel down or walk down the stairs. We chose to walk down as this was our first visit and we had small children, however I definitely would want to rappel down our next solo visit. Rappelling down takes you through the caves natural opening.
Walking takes you through a man made entrance down three flights of stairs in a narrow walkway. At anytime before the next platform you can turn around for a refund. We had a few people drop out due to claustrophobia and fear of heights.
At the second platform, made of a natural rock balcony, and you are introduced to the wonders of the cave. Early visitors would pay .25 cents to climb into a large bucket and then be slowly lowered to the chamber’s floor. They would look around by candlelight and when they were ready, hey would have to put a dollar in the bucket to be pulled back up. Quite the business model!
The focus of the 45 minute tour is on the history of the cave and its formation. The knowledgeable guide describe the process of forming the massive flow stones, stalactites and stalagmites.
Huge stalactites drip from the ceiling, but look tiny due to the scale of the massive cavern.
Take the iron staircase 234 stairs to the bottom until you are in the cavern itself. The staircase was constructed from a WWI battleship and was the first all arc welding projects in the United States. It’s over 100 years old and is holding up really well!
Moaning Caverns can fit the entire Statue of Liberty in it if that gives you a sense of how open and massive the size of it is.
The Chocolate Waterfall
A gigantic flow-stone that has developed over millions of years is called the Chocolate Fall. It extends halfway up the wall of the main chamber.
Don’t be fooled by the image. The “igloo” formation is a 25 foot tall stalagmite.
There are many other formations to see with curious monikers: the Angel wings, the Curtains, the Elephant’s Ear, the Big Cigar; the Mushroom Patch, the Lion’s Head…
Things to Know:
All activities are available every day, year round.
Ask the guide to turn off the lights at the bottom of the cavern for an experience of total darkness!
Come on your birthday date and you can choose any activity to do for Free!
If you wish to explore more of the cave, make a reservation for an Adventure Tour. The Adventure Tour takes you 70 ft below the main chamber where you can crawl underground on your hands and knees through narrow passageways with their own fun monikers: the Meat Grinder, the Birth Canal, and climb up and out of Santa’s Worst Nightmare.
Moaning Caverns is a bit far from a lot of the major cities, but if you are planning a trip to the mountains, you could day trip to it or grab a hotel and make a weekend out of it. The cavern itself is a few miles off the highway at the end of a two lane road.