Luray Caves, USA

20 Mar, 2009

Enjoying the Spectacles of Luray Caves, USA

Luray Caves, USA

Luray Caves, also called Luray Caverns, is one of the most decorated rock formations in the USA. It attracts travel enthusiasts because of its rich geological characteristics and its grand spectacles. The underground cavern system includes speleothems, and grand rock formations like the Great Stalacpipe Organ. Its founders discovered evidences that it was inhabited by Native Indians, but today, is lies unpopulated by any living creatures save for a squirrel or two during wintertime.


The Luray Cavern system was discovered by five local men from Luray, including Andrew J. Campbell in August 13, 1878. Campbell was accompanied by his 13-year-old nephew Quint and a local photographer named Benton Stebbins when they first unearthed the rock formations.

What drew the group’s attention were a protruding limestone formation and a sinkhole with cool air rising from it. These signs confirmed the possibility of the underground cavern’s existence. The party dug for about four hours before they were able to create a hole big enough for Andrew Campbell and his nephew, Quint. They slid down a rope and illuminated the yet-to-be-discovered cavern with candlelight.

Geological Formations

What they first discovered the first limestone column which they named after the first President of the United States: Washington Column. The nationalistic sentiment is not surprising, because the Luray cavern system in Virginia sits at a mere 90 miles away from Washington DC. There’s nothing particularly splendid about the Washington Column, though, except that it introduced a series of more impressive limestone formations farther into the cavern system.

The discoverers next chances upon a Skeleton’s Gorge where they found bone fragments and other artifacts that signified life in the cavern system. Among the pieces of flint and charcoal was a full human skeleton of what was believed once to be a Native American girl. Although the gorge is still called the Skeleton’s Gorge, all these archeological artifacts have been removed. They now sit in the security of the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.


An individual named Sam Buracher previously owned the land where the underground cavern system lies. Fortunately for the group who discovered the cavern system, the land was put up on a foreclosure auction. Andrew Campbell, William Campbell, and Benton Stebbins purchased the cavern tract in September 14, 1878. They kept that cavern a secret until the deal was closed.

Because of the undisclosed value of the land, the court tried to prove the ownership null and void, and was resold to the Luray Cave and Hotel Company after two years. This company was owned by J. Kemp Barlett of Baltimore, and extensive studies of the cavern system’s rock formations soon followed, spearheaded by Prof. Jerome J. Collins, a noted Arctic explorer.

First air conditioning System at the Sanatorium

Shortly after the legalities have been settled, a sanatorium called Limair was erected at the very summit of the Cave Hill. The “pure air” of the Luray Cave was pushed through the rooms of the sanatorium, keeping the home cool at 70◦F . Most people wonder why the cavern’s air is considered pure at all. Those who travel to the area know that it’s “cool” but they often ask what’s so “pure” about the cavern’s air.

Air from the Luray Cave goes through natural filtration because it goes through a myriad of rocky crevices floating above clear springs and pools. It has to be noted that the original Limair Sanatorium burned down in 1900. What most people who travel there now see is a brick building that was restructured to mimic the original home.

Other Physical Properties

Geological enthusiasts and tourists travel to the Luray Cavern System because of spectacular rock formations lying beyond the Washington Column. Farther inside the cavern system, travel guides will point out the Leaning Column which resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Great Stalacpipe Organ has always been the crowd’s favorite. This is a large shield formation that was even used as an instrument earlier on to play folk and religious songs. A retreat connected to the Organ called the Elfin Ramble is also a pretty sight.

The whole of Luray Cave is a fusion of yellows, browns, and reds. The Empress Column, a stalagmite column bigger than the Washington Column, is rose colored and stands 35-feet-high. As the travel guide proceeds, people are bound to catch a glimpse of the Double Column named after two professors Henry and Baird, who studied the cavern system including these two flute-like pillars standing side by side at 25 feet high. These pillars are snowy alabasters.

Travel tips

The Luray Cavern system is best for sight seeing and nature tripping. The cascading rock formations provide an educational as well as a relaxing tour for both first and second-time travelers alike. Because of the cavern’s proximity to the Shenodoah National Park and the Shenodoah River, a trip to the cavern system is perfect for families who travel to absorb nature’s richness.

While in the cavern system, it’s best to be well clothed. Temperatures tend to drop significantly as the tour goes father underground, so it’s best to bring a thick jacket even in the summertime.
Those who travel to Luray Caverns will find cozy accommodations at 19th century inns sprawled across the town of Luray. Some of them might even offer direct shuttles to the cave and the town’s other historical sites.

Aside from being home to the biggest cavern network in the Eastern U.S., Luray town also plays host to thriving business mostly related to tourism. People who visit Luray town for its caverns may also enjoy sports and recreations like canoeing, fishing, cycling, and golfing, in the town’s surrounding parks and recreational centers.

Luray town is accessible from Charlottesville Regional Airport, a short flight from Washington D.C.’s bigger land pad. From the regional airport, the cavern system is a short half mile trip. Family’s who go to Luray town to visit the caverns can avail of day-trips with set activities from them minute they step out of the plane.

Luray Caves, USA

Luray Caves, USA

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