Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A New Favorite Field Trip

I wanted to take the kids on some sort of field trip to wrap up our rocks and minerals unit. After a bit of research I found out about Ohio Caverns. The online photos of the underground cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites looked impressive, and we could easily make it a day trip, so last Friday we set out for an adventure that would turn out to be one of the neatest field trips we've taken so far.

I took tons of pictures of all the beautiful mineral formations we saw and of the gem mining we did after our tour, so I'm making this a two-part post. Thanks for bearing with me!

A little bit of history about the caverns. Can you imagine being the farm boy who discovered these over 100 years ago?

Going down, down, down into the cavern! At the deepest point, we were 100 feet underground. The temperature in the caverns remains a constant 54 degrees year round.

Stalactites and stalagmites are formed when water seeps through rock into open areas underground (such as caverns). As the water drips from the rock ceiling of the cave, the water evaporates and leaves behind mineral deposits that form the stalactite. Sometimes, before evaporating, the water from stalactites drips onto the cave floor and builds a column of mineral deposit called a stalagmite.

Sometimes a stalactite and stalagmite will grow to meet and join each other, forming a column.

The formations in these caverns contain three different minerals: iron oxide (reddish/rust color); manganese (dark purple/black); calcite (white).

Our tour guide told us a great way to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. Stalactites "hang tight" to the ceiling. Stalagmites "might" eventually reach the ceiling.

The long, thin stalactites and stalagmites are called "soda straws".

Look at this soda straw that has formed a column.

The kids are standing in front of "Crystal King". This stalactite is over 4 feet long and is the largest stalactite in Ohio. We were impressed!

These iron oxide stalactites and stalagmites have a sort of honeycomb texture.

The folks at Ohio Caverns have nicknamed this one "the town pump". See the likeness? The kids said it looked like a horse kicking its hind legs up in the air.

I love all of the amazing colors and how they blend together here. It almost looks like a painting. If you look carefully at the large, white (calcite) stalactite on the left, you'll notice that it is actually hanging not from the ceiling, but from a rust-colored (iron oxide) stalactite. When you see this up close and see how large the white stalactite is, you wonder how it has kept hanging on to the rust-colored one all these years.

All five of us were just in awe at the beauty and variety of God's creation under the ground we walk on everyday! The kids are still talking about our visit to the caverns and are asking to go back. I guess that's the sign of a meaningful field trip.

If you can find any caverns with stalactites and stalagmites in your state, or while you're on a vacation, I encourage you to take the time to visit. You and your children won't soon forget it!

More tomorrow on the second part of our adventure!


  1. that does sound like an adventure! Hopefully someday my family can experience this beauty too.

  2. Wow! What a neat field trip. We still have rocks from our summer visits to Michigans upper penisula.
    (I do have a blog but I have done much with it)

  3. What a wonderful field trip. Too bad I am terrified of closed in places. lol

  4. You got some GREAT pictures in there. We went to Carlsbad Caverns last year and it was so interesting. I liked the way to remember the difference. I remember it as stalactite (C as in icicle) and stalagtite (G for ground).

  5. Wonderful pictures! We've been to several caverns but now that I think of it all the trips were before our youngest would remember. Thanks for the reminder. Your pictures are inspiring.

  6. How fun! Caverns are really amazing places. I went to some in the West somewhere as a kid, I thought Carlsbad but my mom says it was elsewhere. Now that we're in VA, we went to Luray Cavers a few weeks ago (their claim to fame is a stalactite organ!) and in a couple weeks we are going to Skyline Caverns. It was so fun to share something I'd done as a kid with my daughter! (It was new to hubby as well, so a bonus!) Really nice pics.


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