Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Lewis and Clark Caverns

Over the weekend my husband and my in-laws surprised me with a getaway to West Yellowstone. They even provided a baby-sitter for the weekend (thanks Gabriel and Clarissa!) It was a wonderful weekend sans children and I am very grateful for their thoughtfulness and generosity! (My kids had a great time, too. With a break from their parents and a fun outing to the zoo...pizza, junk food, fun guardians....so don't feel bad for my leaving them, I don't!)

We didn't venture into Yellowstone National Park. We went last year and while each of us had been there several times before, it was fun because we took the kids. Instead, we decided to drive deeper into Montana and visit the Lewis and Clark Caverns. We arrived midday and got there just in time to use the restroom, visit the gift shop and head out on the tour. There was a short hike that was about a 1/2 mile up to the cave with a 300 foot rise in elevation. (I won't lie, it was a little difficult for me. I'll blame it on the growth in my belly.)

As we looked down off the trail we could see the muddy Jefferson River by which Lewis and Clark travelled twice without discovering the caverns. (In fact, the caverns were discovered about 60 years later by a hunter named Dan Morrison. Lewis and Clark "lend" their names to the caverns for the tourist draw.)

View from the trail (the pale tan stripe is the Jefferson River)

Man-made section of the caverns made by blasting the limestone with dynamite.

I have never seen anything like the formations in the caverns. They were amazing. (I kept my eyes out for Fraggles, but saw none...they must be shy.) Everywhere we turned there was another natural formation that varied greatly from the formation only a foot away. Stalactites hung from the ceiling, stalagmites jutted from below. Sometimes they met to form columns. There was flow rock and "popcorn" and smooth limestone, glistening in the dim light. The tour guide described the way they form...something about water and calcite and other things I didn't commit to memory because I was in awe of what stood before me. But I can tell you this...it was dang cool!

There were several "rooms" in the caverns and several tight spaces including a fun, wet little beaver slide. My favorite room was the fantasy room. Up until that point everything had looked brown/yellow/grey. Once inside the rooms with the ultraviolet lights the spectrum of colors was amazing. Shades of pink, red, purple, and orange lent to the fantastical feel of the rock formations. I'm not that great with descriptions so here are some pictures to do the talking for me.

I took about a bizzilion more pictures, these were just some of my favorites. I think the lowest point we hit was 420 ft below the peak of the mountain and at one point we were on the "one mile step" - one mile above sea level. It was truly incredible. If you ever get the chance to visit, I highly recommend it!


Alisha said...

Fun times. We have caves here but have never been, because let's be honest, I am too cheap to pay the entrance fee.

tammy said...

Your pictures are beautiful! I;m sure it was nice to get away without kids :)

Kelly Martin said...

You found the Rainbow Room from Tennis Shoes! Fun! I'm glad you had a good time!

Kari said...

That looks so fun! And what a nice hubby to surprise you with a trip AND a weekend away from the kids.

Audrey said...


Almost looks cartoony. I totally can envision little fraggles romping around the place.

Question: What happens when you hit "sea level" or below?