|Turquoise Pool is nice and cool, so juicy-sweet!|
This part of Southeastern Minnesota is full of caves and sinkholes. If you're driving around and see a cluster of trees in the middle of a field, odds are good that the trees are there because the ground sunk in and is no longer able to be farmed. This particular cave was found in 1937 by the property owner, Joe Pettey - who filled in some of the floors and opened it up for tours less than a year later. Hard times befell them and the farm (and cave) changed hands several time before it wound up property of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. They restored the cave as best they could - hand-scooping out the gravel that Pettey used to fill the floors, and replacing the gravel walkways with see-through steel grate walkways - and it is now open for tours from spring to autumn.
|Stalactites hold on tight (to the ceiling), stalagmites might someday reach up far enough to touch a stalactite.|
Since it was a cold October day, we only had five people in our tour group. This was fine with me - that meant I could pepper the ranger with questions. Has white-nose syndrome reached the cave's bats yet? (No, not yet, but they are taking precautions by asking all visitors to wash their shoes before and after visiting the cave). Why is the ceiling so nice and flat? (The rocks above formed in layers, and when the weaker sandstone layers fell it left a very smooth layer of shale, making it look like a constructed ceiling). How do the lights get changed? (It is the cave manager's job to change lightbulbs, he is very good at crawling around below the walkway and up into corners to get to them).
|Cave formation Cthulu|
The ceiling really was very nice and flat. I commented at one point that it was like a Disney version of a cave - no disrespect to the cave! It was just so amazing that we were comfortably able to walk through it and get a real good look at the rock formations, pools, and wildlife. The cave was once on the bottom of the sea - proven by this nice 450 million year old cephalopod conveniently located on the ceiling.
|Hello, I am a cephalopod|
Most of the caves 2,000 bats were living in another part of the cave for the season, but a few little brown bats preferred to sleep in the section that we visited. This little guy was about 4 inches long and absolutely adorable. We also saw one that was right overhead, gently swaying back and forth as if he were snoring in his sleep.
The highlight of the tour was the beautiful Turquoise Lake. The ranger did a great job of herding us into a dark passage before dramatically throwing the lights on to reveal the sight before us.
We took the regular old Scenic tour, which was the only kind they offered during the weekend we visited. Neither Joe nor I are keen on taking the Wild Caving or Flashlight tours, but we would have been interested in taking a longer tour like the Geology one or the Photography one. Oh well - we can come back some other time. I would highly, highly recommend visiting this cave if you're in the area. I also think it's a really good First Cave if you want to introduce youngsters to caving in a way that's less intimidating: the path is smooth, it's not really that scary, and it just looks so darn cool.
Posts for this trip will be a bit out of order - but don't worry, we'll get to all of them. :-)