|Today Larry, Dick, Lou & I returned to the Lehman Caves, one of the most visited attractions in the Great Basin National Park. Historical accounts relate that the caves (pronounced LEE-man) were discovered when Absolom Lehman almost fell into them one day in 1885 while out walking (some accounts say riding) on the rocky hillside above his ranch. He announced his discovery in the local newspaper and during that first year guided more than 800 people into the caverns.
Since the early days, passageways have been opened and the old ladders (originally used to enter the caves) replaced by stairways. Several inaccessible areas have been opened so that now about 60 percent of the caves can be viewed. The caves were declared a National Monument in 1922 and became part of the national park when Great Basin was created in 1986.
The path through the caves (technically they’re considered only one cave system) meanders through marble passageways and underground rooms decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, spaghetti-like helictites and a variety of other geologic phenomena. There are lacy aragonite crystals, popcorn-shaped lumps and rippled curtains of stone, called draperies, whose ribbon-striped coloration resembles oversize bacon strips. Though they're found in abundance throughout Lehman Caves, the discs of calcite called shields or palettes are uncommon in most other caves. Rubble on the floor, geologists speculate, is the result of an earthquake which occurred some 10,000 to 30,000 years ago.
Though graffiti is usually associated with defacement, in the Inscription Room it adds a human warmth to the cold stone formations. Original access to this area was through a low crawl space called Fat Man’s Misery and visitors who were able to slither through the narrow passageway recorded their triumphs by marking their initials on the room's ceiling with candle soot. We were sure glad that we didn't have to access through Fat Man's Misery today. It was not only tight, it was muddy too!
These caves are among the most highly decorated limestone solution caverns in the western United States. Though nowhere near the amazing Carlsbad Caverns in splendor, they are neat just the same. The visitor center offers 90-minute guided tours through Lehman Caves daily. Our tour was $10 for 90 minutes, $5 with a Golden Age Pass. The tour winds along for six-tenths of a mile, taking visitors through numerous captivating chambers, including the Gothic Palace, the Cypress Swamp, and the Grand Palace. The temperature in the caves remains low, about 50 degrees, year-round, so warm clothing is recommended. Flashlights are also recommended and we were glad we remembered to bring ours.
The passages are subtly-lit, and our guide carried a torch to illuminate features of special interest. At one point she turned all of the lights off for a short while, allowing us to experience total darkness. The effect is rather different to a moonless night, for example, as the blackness is absolute and the accompanying silence is quite intense. We were a small group today so were able to really enjoy her very informative narrative. And she gave us plenty of time for photos as well. We thoroughly enjoyed our time and hope you enjoy the pics and a couple of short videos as well. If you have reasonably fast Internet service, check them out. Enjoy!