Cathedral Caverns: A unique trip underground
A recent trip to Marshall County in Northeast Alabama led us to one of the most spectacular adventures that we have ever been a part of. The history of Cathedral Caverns is almost as intriguing as the notable features in the cave.
Archaeological excavations at the mouth of the caverns show that Native Americans occupied the location as recent as 200 years ago and as early as 7000 BC. Additionally, the area around the cavern is called Kennamer Cove because of the family who settled the area. During the Civil War, their farmhouse was burned down by the Union Army and they sought refuge in the caverns for an extended amount of time. More present day history tells the story of Jay Gurley and his complete obsession with the caverns. He sold everything his wife would allow him to in order to purchase the cave in 1952. By 1955 he had installed walking paths and lighting in order to open the cavern as a tourist attraction. Known originally as the Bat Cave, Gurley changed the name of the cave when his wife remarked that parts of the cave looked like a cathedral.
Cathedral Caverns was designated a United States Natural Landmark in June of 1972 and the State of Alabama became the owners of the unique destination in 1987. However, funding issues would delay any restoration on the site until 1995 and the cavern was finally reopened in May 2000 as Cathedral Caverns State Park.
Visitors entering the cave will instantly be greeted by the world’s widest entrance to a
commercial cave, which measures 25 feet tall and 128 feet wide. Near the midpoint of the cave tour stands one of the largest stalagmites in the world, measuring 45 feet tall and 243 feet in circumference and affectionately known as Goliath. There is also another stalagmite that is 35 feet tall and only three inches around, a stalagmite forest, and a 135-foot-long wall of flowstone that resembles a frozen waterfall.
The length of the cave is around a mile long and the path twists and turns. However, it is lit and is wheelchair accessible. The path follows the Mystery River for a great part of the trek but researchers are not totally sure where the river begins or ends, leading to even more mystery surrounding the amazing cave.
With approximately 2700 feet of passage that is not open to the public, guests get to a literal stopping point in their journey. If you are lucky, your guide will turn off all the lights in the room you are in and immerse you in the only total darkness you have ever experienced. Additionally, visitors will learn that just beyond that point where the paved path end is the Crystal Room, which is full of the most delicate formations of fragile white calcite. They will rarely have human interaction because the movement of visitors, any heat applied, and humidity would degrade the natural wonders.
If you are going to visit, the caverns are located at 637 Cave Road in Woodville, Alabama. Their phone number is (256) 728-8193 and with their tours lasting approximately 90 minutes, they do tours every hour from 10am to 4pm with the last tour of each day beginning at 4pm.. Being an Alabama state park, they are open 7 days a week from 8am-530pm and the tour cost $20 if you are above 13 years of age and slowly decreases from there based on age. Military discounts are available. Due to COVID restrictions, tour capacity is currently at 50%.
This was the first cave tour that Brandi had ever been on and she is hooked and wants to visit one every chance she gets. It is truly an unearthly experience and one of the most interesting ways to spend the afternoon. Weather does not affect the tours and actually, the day we were there, chances were really high for strong storms and tornadoes but we were definitely in the safest place in the entire state. This cave is a must see and well worth your time and money! Make sure to tell them we sent you!