Alabaster Caverns State Park
|Alabaster Caverns State Park|
|Location||Woodward County, Oklahoma, United States|
|Nearest city||Freedom, Oklahoma|
|Area||200 acres (81 ha)|
|Established||September 1, 1953|
|Governing body||Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department|
Alabaster Caverns State Park is a 200-acre (0.81 km2) state park approximately 4.5 miles (7.2 km) south of Freedom, Oklahoma, United States near Oklahoma State Highway 50. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, the park attracts about 40,000 visitors per year. It is home to the largest natural gypsum cave in the world that is open to the public. The gypsum is mostly in the form of alabaster. There are several types of alabaster found at the site, including pink, white, and the rare black alabaster. This black alabaster can be found in only three veins in the world, one each in Oklahoma, Italy and China. Another form of gypsum can be found in the many selenite crystal formations.
Alabaster Caverns State Park is one of the 16 state parks that Oklahoma has proposed to close in 2018 as a budget reduction measure.
The first documented exploration of the caves occurred in 1898, shortly after Hugh Litton homesteaded the area in 1893. Public tours of the caves began in the early 1900s and increased with the 1939 purchase and renovation of the caverns by Charles Grass, who gave them their current name.
Alabaster Caverns State Park is underlain by Permian age sedimentary rocks (~300 to 250 million years old). The caves in the area were created around 20,000 years ago from dissolution of gypsum beds in the Permian strata. A small perennial stream now flows through the cave and is fed by various lateral tunnels and seepage from the roof. In the geologic past, the river was once capable of completely filling the 3/4 mile (1.2 km) long caverns. The cave walls and gypsum formations show evidence of sculpting by rapidly flowing water.
The cavern is home to five different species of bat. Some are solitary while others are colonial. The cavern provides roosting sites that serve as daytime shelter and a place for the non-migrating bats to hibernate during the winter months. Mexican free-tailed bats migrate to Alabaster Caverns from Mexico in the spring to bear their young. They then return to Mexico in the fall.
Beside guided cave tours, wild caving, camping, hiking trails, and recreational facilities such as horseshoe pits and volleyball courts are available to visitors.
Proposed park closure in 2018
In March 2017, the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation published a list of 16 state parks that may be closed to help offset a reduction in its budget for 2018. Alabaster Canyon State Park is on this list. This list represents approximately one-half of the parks remaining after the department closed seven parks in 2011.
- "Alabaster Caverns State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
- Allen, LaRadius. Alabaster Caverns State Park, Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture Archived May 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. (accessed May 19, 2013)
- Alabaster Caverns State Park, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department (accessed May 19, 2013)
- Fultenberg, Lorne. "Half of Oklahoma state parks could close with budget cuts." KFOR News. March 13, 2017. Accessed November 1, 2017.
- LaRadius, Allen. "Alabaster Caverns State Park". Oklahoma Historical Society. Archived from the original on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2017.