Cathedral Caverns State Park

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For other areas named Cathedral Caverns, see Cathedral Cavern (disambiguation).
Coordinates: 34°34′24″N 86°13′20″W / 34.57333°N 86.22222°W / 34.57333; -86.22222
Cathedral Caverns State Park
State park
Cathedral Caverns in Grant, Alabama.jpg
Country United States
State Alabama
County Marshall
Coordinates 34°34′24″N 86°13′20″W / 34.57333°N 86.22222°W / 34.57333; -86.22222
Area 461 acres (187 ha)
Founded 1987
IUCN category III - Natural Monument
Park location within the state of Alabama
Website: Cathedral Caverns State Park
Designated: June 1972

Cathedral Caverns State Park is an Alabama state park located in northern Marshall County, 7 miles (11 km) southeast of the town of Woodville. The cave is located in Kennamer Cove, approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) northeast of Grant.

The cave, originally named Bats Cave, was first developed as an attraction by Jay Gurley in the late 1950s. It was declared a National Natural Landmark in 1972.[1]


Cathedral Cavern is a Karst cave with a large stalagmite forest covering approximately 3 acres (1.2 ha).[2] The caverns are approximately 11,000+ feet (3,350 m+) surveyed and explored cave with 8-foot-wide (2.4 m) concrete walkways that are wheelchair accessible.[3] The public portion of the cave extends approximately 3,500 feet (1,100 m) and has some 2 miles (3.2 km) of paths; another 2,700 feet (820 m) extend beyond the end of the pathway.[2] Formerly inaccessible areas beyond the paved walkway are now open as part of the "Wild Cave Tour."[4]

The cave system has laid claim to several world records though their accuracy has been disputed.[5] Among the caverns' notable features are:

  • the widest entrance of any commercial cave in the world - 25 feet (7.6 m) tall and 128 feet (39 m) wide.
  • the largest column in the world - Goliath, measuring 45 feet (14 m) tall and 243 feet (74 m) in circumference.
  • the largest flow stone wall - 32 feet (9.8 m) tall and 135 feet (41 m) long.
  • the most improbable formation in the world - a 3-inch-diameter (76 mm) stalagmite which rises at a 45-degree angle from a rock formation to the cave ceiling 25 feet (7.6 m) above.
  • a Big Room, which is 792 feet (241 m) long and 200 feet (61 m) wide.

The Mystery River flows through the cavern. Due to limited outflow, the cave is subject to flooding after heavy rain.[2]


Archaeological excavations at the mouth of Cathedral Caverns have indicated occupation by Native Americans as recently as 200 years ago and perhaps as early as 7000 BCE.[2]

The Kennamer family's ancestors settled on a farm in what became Kennamers Cove. During the Civil War, the farmhouse was burned down by Union soldiers, and the family lived in the cave that was on their land for an extended period of time. Mr. Gurley, eventually, saw the cave and bought it from the Kennamer family.

Mr. Gurley maintained the cave as a tourist attraction from 1959 to 1974. The cave was sold in 1975 at an auction. The State of Alabama bought the cave in 1987 with the intent to reopen the site as a state park. After funding delays, restoration work actually began in 1995. In May 2000, the Cavern re-opened to the public.

Activities and amenities[edit]

In addition to cave tours, the state park offers gem mining, picnicking, and tent camping.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

In 1983, principal photography for the 1984 horror film Secrets of the Phantom Caverns took place in the caverns.[7] In 1995, Cathedral Caverns provided the cave settings for the Disney Studios film Tom and Huck starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Tom Sawyer and Brad Renfro as Huckleberry Finn.


  1. ^ "Cathedral Caverns". National Natural Landmarks Program. National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-11-04. 
  2. ^ a b c d Rainer, David (October 2008). "Cathedral Caverns Inspire Awe". Outdoor Alabama (Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources). Retrieved 2012-11-16. 
  3. ^ "Cathedral Caverns". Alabama State Parks. May 2009. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  4. ^ Powell, Andy (March 24, 2011). "Cathedral Caverns". The Gadsden Times. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  5. ^ Duckeck, Jochen. "Cathedral Caverns: Bat Cave". Show Caves of the World. Retrieved 2012-11-16. 
  6. ^ "Cathedral Caverns State Park". Alabama State Parks. Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved 2012-11-16. 
  7. ^ "Gas blame for illness, panic of set; Caves are being used to shoot sci-fi flick". Miami Herald. August 23, 1983. p. 3B. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 

External links[edit]