Luray Caverns, USA
Luray Caverns, originally known as the Luray cave, is located in Page County in northwestern Virginia, USA. It is near the town of Luray, headquarters of Shenandoah National Park. The Shenandoah Valley extends from the Blue Ridge in the north to the south end of the Massanutten Mountain. The Caverns, covering 64 acres, were discovered in 1878. Millions and millions years ago, they were formed by underground rivers and seepage of acid-bearing water through the layers of limestone and clay. Slowly and steadily, the clay washed away, leaving only the limestone shell. After the formation of the caverns, they were filled with glacial mud for a prolonged period and the acidic mud gradually eroded the dripstone and altered its shape. Later, when the mud was removed by the flow of fresh water, the older eroded forms remained intact, along with the new growth, resulting in a striking display of multi-hued stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and cascades.
The white formations in the Luray Caverns are due to the presence of pure calcium carbonate in its pure form, while other colours reflect impurities in the calcite, which were absorbed from the soil or the rock layers. Reds and yellows are due to iron, black from manganese dioxide, blues and greens are from solutions of copper compounds.
The temperature inside the caverns is uniformly 54 °F (12 °C), Equipped with paved walkways, the caverns consist with a group of chambers, 30 to 140 feet in height. The chambers are artistically illuminated by indirect lighting and are connected by corridors, stairways, and bridges. At the entrance of the caverns stands the 117 feet high the Luray Singing Tower, with 47 bells ranging from 5.7 kg to 3,466 kg. Some of the other notable formations include the Leaning Column, tilted like the Leaning Tower of Pisa; a rose-coloured and elaborately draped, 35 feet high stalagmite column, named the Empress Column; the Double Column, named after Professors Henry and Baird, made of two fluted pillars side by side; several stalactites in the Giant's Hall; and a ghostly white pillar named the Pluto's Ghost. The Dream Lake is actually a spring of water that has an almost mirror-like appearance and stalactites reflected in the water appear to be stalagmites. The Wishing Well, a three feet deep green pond with coins also gives an illusion, however it is reversed. However, perhaps among all the formations, the most unique is the Great Stalacpipe Organ, an electrically actuated lithophone, which is regarded as the world's only stalacpipe organ. It was made from solenoid-fired strikers that tap stalactites of various sizes to produce haunting musical tones similar to those of xylophones.
Discovered on August, 1878, by five local men, the property was purchased by the Luray Caverns Corporation in 1905. ‘The Luray Caverns’ is still very much active and the formations are still growing at the rate of one cubic inch every 120 years. In 1974, the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior designated Luray Caverns as a National Natural Landmark.