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Limestone Caves

A limestone cave is most likely to contain beautiful cave formations. Also, the deepest and longest caves in the world are of this type, making them some of the most adventurous . But how are these caves formed?

Limestone is mostly made up of the mineral calcite (calcium carbonate). Most limestone was formed on ancient ocean floors, the calcite coming from the shells of marine organisms. Limestone is very soluble, meaning it is easily dissolved. Rainwater picks up carbon dioxidein the air and a weak solution of carbonic acid is formed. This water can dissolve limestone over time, creating a cave.

The same water that dissolved the calcite in the limestone can deposit the calcite in other areas of the cave, creating cave formations known as speleothems. These are the stalactites, stalagmites and other formations commonly found in this type of cave.

Recently, it has been discovered that the well-known caves of Carlsbad Caverns and Lechuguilla Cave were not formed from carbonic acid but from sulfuric acid. It was discovered that oil-eating microorganisms deep within the earth produce hydrogen sulfide that rose up and mixed with ground water producing sulfuric acid. It was this sulfuric acid that dissolved the limestone forming the caves.

Either way, because the soluble limestone is partially dissolved and carried away, these are a type of solutional cave. Less common solutional caves are formed in other types of rock like chalk, marble or gypsum.

Often limestone caves are named caverns. What’s the Difference? They are really the same thing. The name cavern is often used for very large caves or caves that contain large rooms like the Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns. This is the largest cave room in the USA.

So where do we find limestone caves? They’re in many areas of the world, so you have a lot to choose from when planning your next adventure.

The USA has many limestone caves and caverns. Below you will find a state by state listing of the most popular. Click on the ones that are links for more information.

To see these caves located on a map, click here.

Cathedral CavernsColossal Cave
Desoto CavernsGrand Canyon Caverns
Rickwood CavernsKartchner Caverns
Russel Cave
Sequoyah Caverns
Blanchard Springs CavernsCalifornia Caverns
Mercer Caverns
Mitchell Caverns
Moaning Caverns
Shasta Caverns
Cave of The WindsFlorida Caverns State Park
Glenwood Caverns
Bluespring CavernsMaquoketa Caves
Indiana CavernsSpook Cave
Marengo Cave
Squire Boone Caverns
Wyandotte Caves
Carter CavesCameron Cave
Diamond CavernsCrystal Cave
Kentucky CavernsFantastic Caverns
Lost River CaveMark Twain Cave
Mammoth Cave National ParkMeramec Caverns
Talking Rocks Cavern
MontanaNew Mexico
Lewis and Clark CavernsCarlsbad Caverns
Lechuguilla Cave
NevadaNew York
Lehman CavesHowe Caverns
Whipple CaveSecret Caverns
North CarolinaOhio
Linville CavernsCrystal Cave
Ohio Caverns
Olentangy Indian Caverns
Robbers Cave
Oregon Caves National Monument
PennsylvaniaPuerto Rico (not a state, but almost)
Bear CaveCamuy Caves
Crystal Cave PA
Indian Echo Caverns
Laurel Caverns
Lincoln Caverns
Lost River Caverns
Penns Cave
South DakotaTennessee
Jewel CaveAppalachian Caverns
Rushmore CaveBell Witch Cave
Sitting Bull Crystal CavernsBristol Caverns
Wind Cave National ParkCumberland Caverns
Forbidden Caverns
Racoon Mountain Caverns
Tuckaleechee Caverns
Bracken CaveTimpanogos
Cascade Caverns
Inner Space Caverns
Longhorn Caverns
Natural Bridge Caverns
Sonora Caverns
VirginiaWest Virginia
Dixie CavernsLost World Caverns
Luray CavernsOrgan Cave
Skyline CavernsSeneca Caverns
Smoke Hole Caverns
Cave of the Mounds
Crystal Cave