My kids have really gotten into geology lately so we made a trip to Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown, TX. They had never been to a cavern so they were really excited.
There are three different levels of tours that you can take. We took the Adventure tour which lasts about 1 hour, 15 minutes and is the beginner level tour. They also offer the Hidden Passages tour which lasts about 1 hour, 30 minutes and customers are provided with their own flashlight as they will be taking a more rugged tour. Finally, if you are really adventurous, you can take the Wild Cave tour. This tour lasts from 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours. You must be 13 years of age or older. This tour takes adventurers into undeveloped areas of the cavern and is physically demanding.
We got our tickets for the Adventure Tour and waited for our time to start. While we waited there was plenty to look at. Rachel found a giant mammoth.
Nicholas looked at the mammoth molar and jawbone. These were actually found here in the cavern.
Our guide explained how dynamite was first used to blast an opening to the cavern. He had a flashlight and used it to point out things of interest all along our tour.
It is a steep walk along a lot of the paths in the cavern. Close-toed shoes are recommended but I would add that hiking boots or at least shoes with really good traction would be ideal.
The first room is a great place to learn about the basics of cavern formations. Water seeps through the ground and while it is under pressure from the Earth, it picks up carbon dioxide and the mineral calcite. Once the water reaches the open area of the cavern and is no longer under pressure the carbon dioxide evaporates and the calcite can no longer be held by the water so it settles on to the nearest surface.
In this room We saw stalactites which hang from the ceiling and stalagmites which build up from the ground. Columns form when the stalactites and stalagmites meet up and join. These formations take a really long time to form. They grow at a rate of about 1 cubic inch in 100 years.
You are not allowed to touch any of the formations in the cavern. Our skin will put oil and dirt on the formations which will cause the calcite to just glide right over the formation instead of building on to it. However, you are allowed to touch Temptation Stone. It is the ONLY stone in the cavern that you are allowed to touch so get it out of your system here.
Most of the formations in the cavern are a tan or rust color due to iron that is mixed with the calcite. However, pure calcite is very white as seen in this picture below. The top of this white formation is called a drapery and it was formed as the water slid down an inclined plane and left streaks of calcite behind. The lower part of the formation is a stalagmite. When they joined together, they became a drapery column.
This part of Texas was once under the sea and you can see fossilized coral and shrimp on the ceiling in parts of the cavern.
This ceiling is different that most of the ceiling in the cavern because it is made of dolomite. It is absorbent like a sponge so formations don't form like they do in other rooms.
Here you can see a crack in the ceiling from a fissure of the Balcones Fault.
Some of the tunnels were low and narrow but they all eventually opened up into big rooms.
Like looking for pictures in the clouds, it is also fun to use your imagination to see what you can find in the formations. This room is called the Ice Cream Parlor because of the formations that look like an ice cream cone and ice cream sandwich.
This is also the room with the First Formation. This stalactite and stalagmite are about 1/2 inch apart and at the slow rate of growth it will probably be 50 years before they join as a column formation. It will be the "first formation" to form since the cavern was opened.
I wish I had a better picture of this but this is called Cave Bacon. Doesn't it kind of look like bacon hanging from the ceiling? It is formed from alternating flows of brown and white calcite that flow through an elongated crack instead of a hole.
We made our way into the Discovery Room where the Inner Space Cavern was first discovered back in 1963 as part of a study by the Texas Highway Department to see if they could build I-35 in this area. They were taking core samples of the ground and the drill then dropped 25 feet down to the bottom of the cavern. They did a little more drilling before determining that they must have found a cavern. They expanded this drill hole to 24 inches and actually sent the first person down this hole to see for himself. Can you imagine going down this narrow dark tunnel and coming out into a pitch black unknown cavernous area? That's the stuff of nightmares to me! But thank goodness they pushed on and discovered this amazing cavern for us to explore today.
This room has a cool formation that some say looks like a big fat sumo wrestler eating ice cream. I see it! Do you? Isn't it fun to see what your imagination can come up with as you look at these formations?
This formation is called the Flowing Stone of Time and it is one of the older formations in the cavern. It is HUGE!
On the side of the Flowing Stone of Time is a small hole in the ground about 3 feet big. In the hole is a small pool that can hold about 125 gallons of water. Since the water down here has been naturally filtered as it traveled through the rocks, this is some of the purest water you can find.
The Scalloped Ceiling room shows that water was present in this room as evidenced by the erosion that it caused as waves beat against the ceiling. Nicholas later asked me about this and wondered why there would be waves if there wasn't wind to blow the water around. Good question! We will have to research this on our own.
This is the Castle Balcony room. This was a fun room because our tour guide told us a cute fairy tale derived from the formations. It had to do with a castle, princess, a dragon, etc. I love storytelling so I could seriously spend time down here just making up stories about the interesting formations.
There is a retaining wall surrounding an area of the cave called a bone sink. There were many bones found in the sink hole and a UT professor has used the retaining wall to paint pictures of some of the animals of which bones were found.
This is the Inner Cathedral room, the largest room in the cavern. There are excavation digs here performed by the University of Texas. There are some fossils in the ground that they were too soft to safely excavate so they have left them in place for now.
This last room is called the Lake of the Moon. It is the deepest spot in the cavern at 69 feet below the surface. It is a really beautiful room and there has even been a wedding performed down here!
There is a monster face at the entrance to the room! See the eyes, nose, and scary mouth?
Our little amateur geologists had a great time on the Adventure Tour and they hope to come back soon to try the Hidden Passages tour!
Rachel thought the room was so beautiful. She asked to get one more picture of just her in it. I had to be quick though because our tour guide had already left to take the group back up to the surface! It's a pretty room but I didn't want to get stuck down there if they turned the lights out on us!
Back up at the surface we briefly checked out the gift shop. I saw this awesome shirt and I probably should have bought it but I didn't!
We got a recommendation from a friend for a good place for BBQ for dinner. We went to Salt Lick. It was delicious!
Information about Inner Space Cavern:
The address is 4200 S. I-35, Georgetown, TX 78626. Hours are Monday - Friday: 9am - 4pm; Saturday: 10am-5pm; Sunday: 11am-5pm. For more information, please call them at 512-931-2283 or check out the Inner Space Cavern Facebook page.