Colossal Cave (Arizona)
Colossal Cave is a large cave system in southeastern Arizona, near the community of Vail, approximately 22 miles SE of Tucson. It contains about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of mapped passageways, and was discovered by Soloman Lick in 1879. Temperatures inside average 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) year-round.
The cave is an ancient karst cave, classified as "dry" by guides (though this is not a speleologic term). The meaning of this is that its formations are completely dry, or "dead", and do not grow. This is because the cave was formed by water depositing limestone, but this source has disappeared. It instead feeds the "active" nearby Arkenstone Cave that continues to grow formations.
Colossal Cave was used from 900 to 1450 AD by the Hohokam, Sobaipuri, and Apache Indians. The cave was rediscovered in 1879 by Solomon Lick, the owner of the nearby Mountain Springs Hotel. He was searching for stray cattle when he discovered the entrance to the cave. The cave was then used as a guano source, and a tunnel, 25 metres (82 ft) long, was built in 1905, and a total of seven train cars of guano were filled. The deposit was soon exhausted, and the tunnel was abandoned.
Colossal Cave Mountain Park
Today the cave is a popular tourist destination as part of Colossal Cave Mountain Park. The park also features two other caves, named Arkenstone and La Tetera, which are protected and are being studied by researchers.
Other park attractions include:
- La Posta Quemada Ranch Museum - exhibits focus on the human history and the natural history of Colossal Cave Mountain Park and the Cienega Corridor region, with special emphasis on the park's caves.
- Civilian Conservation Corps Museum - history of the Civilian Conservation Corps activities in the park
- "The Cowboy" - a bronze sculpture of a cowboy by Buck McCain, reflecting the park's history as a ranch
- Horseback trail rides
- Picnic and camping facilities
- Butterfly garden
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- Colossal Cave Mountain Park - official site
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