Blanchard Springs Caverns

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Blanchard Springs Cavern
Ghost Room.jpg
Speleothems in Blanchard Springs Cavern
Location Stone County, Arkansas, U.S.
Nearest city Fifty-Six
Coordinates 35°57′49.26″N92°10′45.58″W / 35.9636833°N 92.1793278°W / 35.9636833; -92.1793278 Coordinates: 35°57′49.26″N92°10′45.58″W / 35.9636833°N 92.1793278°W / 35.9636833; -92.1793278
Governing body United States Forest Service
The "Giant Flowstone" in Blanchard Springs Caverns, seen on the Discovery Tour. Blanchard Springs Giant Flowstone.jpg
The "Giant Flowstone" in Blanchard Springs Caverns, seen on the Discovery Tour.

Blanchard Springs Caverns is a cave system located in the Ozark–St. Francis National Forest in Stone County in northern Arkansas, 2 miles off Highway 14 a short distance north of Mountain View. [1] It is the only tourist cave owned by the United States Forest Service and the only one owned by the Federal government outside the National Park System. Blanchard Springs Caverns is a three-level cave system, all of which can be viewed on guided tours. The Dripstone Trail runs through the uppermost level of caverns for about a half-mile and opened in 1973. [2] The Discovery Trail opened in 1977 and loops through a 1.2-mile section of the cavern, descending to the lower level of the cave, 366 feet underground, as well as to the Natural Entrance, about 100 feet below ground at that point, following the stream bed of the springs that created the cavern. This trail includes the Rimstone Dams, which create pools along the stream bed, and the Ghost Room, a small but very well decorated room in the uppermost level, with its huge white flowstone. Also offered is a "Wild Cave" tour which allows access to undeveloped parts of the cave to more adventurous visitors. It follows the upstream section of the cave, allowing visitors to see all three levels as the original explorers did, continuing beyond where the Discovery Trail ends.

Cave Natural underground space large enough for a human to enter

A cave or cavern is a natural void in the ground, specifically a space large enough for a human to enter. Caves often form by the weathering of rock and often extend deep underground. The word cave can also refer to much smaller openings such as sea caves, rock shelters, and grottos, though strictly speaking a cave is exogene, meaning it is deeper than its opening is wide, and a rock shelter is endogene.

Ozark–St. Francis National Forest

The Ozark – St. Francis National Forest is a United States National Forest that is located in the state of Arkansas. It is composed of two separate forests, Ozark National Forest in the Ozark Mountains; and St. Francis National Forest on Crowley's Ridge. Each forest has distinct biological, topographical, and geological differences.

Stone County, Arkansas U.S. county in Arkansas

Stone County is located in the Ozark Mountains in the U.S. state of Arkansas. The county is named for rugged, rocky area terrain of the Ozarks. Created as Arkansas's 74th county on April 21, 1873, Stone County has two incorporated cities: Mountain View, the county seat and most populous city, and Fifty-Six. The county is also the site of numerous unincorporated communities and ghost towns.

Contents

History

Residents knew about the cave by the 1930s and called it Half-Mile Cave. [3] Systematic explorations began in the 1950s and continued sporadically through the 1960s. Explorers discovered a skeleton in the cave in 1955 which were incomplete; a cause of death could not be ascertained. The caverns were opened to the public in 1973 after 10 years of development on the Dripstone Trail.

Geology

With 8.1 miles of surveyed passage, Blanchard is the second longest cave in Arkansas and the largest in volume. [4] The limestone rock from which the caves and their formations developed was laid down in an ancient sea more than 350 million years ago. The cave is in middle Ordovician to lower Mississippian rocks and extends through six stratigraphic formations. [4] The cave has shown over 5 levels of passage development but the upper two levels have eroded away as deepening valleys on the surface cut into them. The cave's formation was largely phreatic in nature (formed below the water table) and passages have elliptical cross-sections typical of these formations. During the cave's development, active streams have been pirated from one level down to another without much vadose erosion occurring. The present stream currently rises from the cave at Blanchard Springs itself, at the same temperature as the cave, a constant, year-round 58 °F (14 °C). Most of the lower-level Discovery Route is in the approximately 100-foot thick Plattin limestone whereas the Dripstone tour route in the uppermost level of the cave spans 3 units, the Boone Chert, Cason Shale, and the Fernvale Limestone. [4] Blanchard remains a "living" cave in part because of the care given by visitors and the United States Forest Service. Thus the formations inside continue to grow as calcite is actively deposited by seeping and dripping water. One of the outstanding examples of formation growth is the Giant Flowstone, one of the largest in the U.S., at 164 feet long, 33 feet wide, and 30 feet thick.

The Ordovician is a geologic period and system, the second of six periods of the Paleozoic Era. The Ordovician spans 41.2 million years from the end of the Cambrian Period 485.4 million years ago (Mya) to the start of the Silurian Period 443.8 Mya.

Phreatic is a term used in hydrology to refer to aquifers, in speleology to refer to cave passages, and in volcanology to refer to eruption type.

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References

  1. Jack May. "Blanchard Springs Caverns - Arkansas". Uark.edu. Archived from the original on 2013-07-04. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  2. "Blanchard Springs Caverns". Encyclopedia of Arkansas . Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  3. Rossiter, Phyllis (1992). A Living History of the Ozarks. Pelican Publishing. p. 307. ISBN   978-0882898018.
  4. 1 2 3 Goodwin, Danny (2009). "Blanchard Springs Caverns, Arkansas". In Palmer, Arthur; Palmer, Margaret (eds.). Caves and Karst of the USA. Huntsville, AL: National Speleological Society. pp. 174–176. ISBN   9781879961289.