Utah is known for it’s majestic mountains and red cliffs, but some of its most splendid views are to be found hundreds of feet underground. Caves are hidden natural wonders filled with gravity defying formations and Megan Barrett, freshman outdoor recreation major and resident cave expert, has a few favorites found within the Beehive State.
Stating that she began caving at the age of 15 as volunteer for the Mount Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Barrett fell in love with the hobby that not everyone can do.
Now sharing that love, Barrett will take part in the Outdoor Education Series with her lecture titled “Caves: Is Hades Really Down There? My Adventure in the Underworld of Caves” Thursday, March 27 at 11:30 a.m. in the Outdoor Center located within the Sharwan Smith Student Center.
Get into the deeper and darker side of the T-Bird Nation by entering the caves that lie beneath our feet and the top 10 caves that must be explored according to Barrett, are listed below (in no particular order):
You see the foreboding mountain shadowing northern Utah, but what’s underneath? Available for all ages and experience, this is guided cave tour that allow visitors to see many colorful cave features. The most interesting are the helictites, hollowed straws of rock, the many cave columns, stalactites, and stalagmites.
A beautiful limestone cave with unusual formations, these caves located in Great Basin National Park are home to some of the best shield formations. More than 300 shield formations are known to exist in Lehman Caves, more than any other cave. The cave is also lavishly decorated with various cave formations and is perfect for any explorer, no matter the level of experience.
Spanish Moss Cave
A much more difficult cave in northern Utah, requires cavers to be highly trained and have specialized gear. The entrance is hidden and starts at the base of a tree, and according to Barrett, is filled with some of the most beautiful cave formations.
Green Eyed Monster
Discovered in the 1800s by a few miners, the Green Eyed Monster has an undisclosed location to retain its near-pristine condition. This cave earned its name by the unique green cave walls found throughout. This occurred when calcite and nickel met to form a neon green effect.
Duck Creek Ice Cave
A single room, limestone cave, the Duck Creek Ice Cave is for the more inexperienced caver, but be sure to bring a jacket, this cave lives up to its name. The cave features a few cave formations and ice can be found year round, which comes with a warning from Barrett, ensure proper gear is worn and you take caution so you don’t fall.
Requiring the visitor to crawl, squeeze and climb through tight passages, the Bloomington Caves located in St. George is fifth longest cave in Utah. Formed during an earthquake, the cave gives explorers the chance to lower themselves into a dark cavern, crawling and climbing over cold slippery rocks and slinking through narrow openings.
Snow Canyon Lava Tubes
At the end of a dusty trail through Snow Canyon State Park one can find the Snow Canyon Lava Tubes. These are short passages that run beneath the park and were created from old volcano lava flows. The overall rating of these tubes are easy and are for any one, no matter the experience level.
One of the largest lava tubes in Utah; Mammoth Cave is located in Dixie National Forest and is a cave for all ages. Staying cool year round, the cave has four chambers that one can explore and stretches about a quarter of a mile. The main access points are wide and easy to access.
Crystal Ball Cave
Playing host to the typical stalactites and stalagmites, Crystal Ball Cave holds even more charm by living up to its name and hosts sparkling, translucent crystals that grow on the cave walls. Located within the Great Basin National Park, the cave requires you to schedule a tour but this little-known wonder is well worth a visit.
Located near Bear Lake in northern Utah, the Minnetonka Cave hosts interesting cave formations that run entire half-mile length. Created by the great strength of water, you can also find tropical water animal fossils that are visible in the walls, ceilings and floors.
These crevices and cavities created under the earth or within mountains have a good amount of majesty to share with explorers and adventurers, but Barrett encourages all those who explore the underground world to prepare adequately. She persuades everyone to wear a helmet, carry three sources of light and to stay with a group.
“Caves are some of the most magical places on earth, but you need to be careful. One can easily bump their head, fall down a crevice or get stuck,” she explained.
The OES is one of the many efforts by SUU to take advantage of its scenic location. It is sponsored by SUU’s Outdoor Engagement Center and the Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism program. For the Spring 2014 Outdoor Education Series schedule, visit the Harry Reid Center for Outdoor Engagement in person or online, at www.suu.edu/uc/outdoor/.