Morning view from camp
Pulled into the Colossal Cave Mountain Park entrance just as they were closing at 5pm. But the lady at the gate took my $10 camping fee and radioed the guy at the campground gate not to close it as I was on my way.
Campground to left in valley
A beautiful and primitive campground, I believe I was the only person there except for a few employees.
The gate was reopened at 9am and I drove out of there and around a few miles to get to the cave opening and visitor center by 9:30. Only waited 30 minuets for a tour along with nine other people.
Our guide, Adam, knew his stuff and talked about the geologic formation of the cave and the local history.
Colossal is currently dormant, a dry cave with no new formations growing. After exceedingly heavy rain there is dripping in the cave.
Scientists believe the Colossal Cave was formed about 10-15 million years ago as hot water filled with sulphuric acid welled up from below the ground dissolving the rock. Later, surface water seeped through cracks in the rock and left the formations like stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone.
Over two miles of cave have been explored and mapped extending 600 feet (182.88 m) into the mountain and 40 feet (12.19 m) below the main entrance.
Archeological evidence of early native use by the Hohokam indicates the cave openings were used for shelter about 1100 years ago and there is still black soot on the entrance area ceiling from fires.
The cave was rediscovered in 1879 by Solomon Lick and was opened briefly for tours in 1917.
In 1905 a 75-foot (22.86 m) tunnel was excavated into the cave in order to mine bat guano.
In 1922, Frank Schmidt filed mining claims on land occupied by the cave. He is responsible for the first extensive survey of the cave and traveled in it for six days before using up the food and water. Although Frank relinquished his lease to the State of Arizona in 1934, he continued to lead tours for many years.
Then from 1934-36 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built trails, handrails and lighting in the cave and built the visitor center.
Several movies have been made here, but the most notable is a Walt Disney Production The Outlaw Cats of Colossal Cave filmed in 1975.
In 1992, Colossal Cave Mountain Park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Today, over 2,000 acres include the cave and the working La Posta Quemanda Ranch, which I didn’t explore.
The cave is a balmy 70 degrees F (~20 C) and the tour lasted about an hour. Well worth it.
View back out of park