Smoke Hole Caverns

Back Ground Info.

Smoke Hole Caverns are a large system of caverns located in Grant County, West Virginia. They were opened to the public in the 1940s. It is said that Native Americans used the caverns for smoking meat…this is how they acquired their name. It was also used for this by soldiers during the Civil War. Folk Lore has it that the caverns were also used during the time of moonshiners. There is only one entrance into the caverns which made it secure and with an everlasting supply of fresh water it was a perfect place to produce moonshine. They’re also home to an artesian well and contains the world’s longest Stalactite.

Beginning.

The separation of Pangea occurred about 600 million years ago. The Americas left Europe and Africa during this. A wide shallow depression from Alabama to Newfoundland was created. Then, for 400 million years, an ancient sea flooded the area that is now the Appalachian Mountains. Layers of water-borne sediments built up on the ocean floor followed by limestone sediments made up of fossilized marine animals and shells. The weight of the sediments eventually applied enough pressure to turn the layers into metamorphic rock. As a result of the never ending shifting of earth’s tectonic plates, North America and Africa collided. This raised and split the seafloor causing the bottom layer of metamorphic rock to tilt upward and slide over the younger layers. This is what created what we know as the Appalachians.

Growth.

A majority of caves are result from layering of limestone, an acidic mixture of water and carbon dioxide, and time.  The formation of Smoke Hole Cavers began after the limestone of the Seneca  Rocks Area was formed. There is no evidence in the caverns of the presence of large flowing streams. Most of the cave deposits have been brought in by very small streams of water that haven’t lasted. Rain water picks up diluted carbonic acid when it seeps through decaying vegetation in the soil above the rock. The hollowing out of limestone begins as the acid water comes into contact with the rock, then it slowly erodes the layers away. Water eventually fills the openings enlarging them. Runoff soon descends into lower levels of the earth leaving huge chambers. As the water subsides and only slow seepage continues, “nature’s decorating process” begins. The calcium carbonate gives up some of its carbon dioxide and allows a precipitation of lime to form. This precipitation starts off as a thin ring of crystallized calcite. As this process goes on, stalactites form from the ceiling. As the drops fall to the floor, deposits build up stalagmites.  Stalactites grow down from the ceiling and Stalagmites grow up from the floor. When the two meet, they form pillars. Smoke Hole Caverns is an active cave where new deposits form at the rate of one cubic inch every 120 years.

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3 Responses to Smoke Hole Caverns

  1. walmann says:

    Amazing! This looks like a cool place to visit. And a lot of interesting information about how they were made too, great post!

  2. Yin Thu Htin says:

    Awesome!!!!!!!!!! I can’t wait to visit there. It is really amazing!!!!!!!!

  3. jasonrossetti says:

    Sounds like a great place for a field trip. I bet it is amazing to experience inside. Dr. Pillar needs to set up a trip!

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