When I used to be a little child rising up in Kansas City, nobody had air-con. An enormous summer time deal with was going to the motion pictures. Corrugated cardboard icicles trimmed the marquees with the message, “It’s cool inside!”
Today, virtually each constructing is air conditioned, and on sizzling days, all of us simply keep indoors. If you are in search of a approach to get outdoors and nonetheless keep cool, Oklahoma has a distinctive state park that fills the invoice.
Alabaster Caverns State Park could also be sizzling on high, however step into the cave and you will get pleasure from not solely the temperature, however a fascinating geologic function.
Millions of years in the past, this a part of Oklahoma was lined by the Permian Sea, a shallow ocean. During the 47 million years of the Permian Period, this sea rose and fell, creating layers of sediment.
The earth was rocked with earthquakes and volcanoes and ultimately, massive chunks of the planet have been thrust above the water’s floor. Drying created cracks in the rocks.
Eventually, water seeped into the rocks and commenced washing out caverns beneath the floor. Water rushed by means of these underground areas, carving out an increasing number of passages. Caves fashioned on this method are labeled as solutional/erosional caves.
Unlike extra frequent limestone caves, Alabaster Caverns is fashioned in a arduous type of gypsum: alabaster. Alabaster, gypsum and selenite are current in the cave.
Both limestone caves and gypsum caves are created by water erosion. Chemicals in limestone caves create stalactites, stalagmites and different incredible kinds.
Gypsum caves like Alabaster Caverns haven’t got these options. Alabaster Caverns, one in every of the largest gypsum caves in the world, is the solely gypsum collapse the United States open for public excursions.
There are literally a number of caves in the state park. The foremost cave is named Alabaster Caverns. Other caves, not open for excursions — although spelunkers can organize visits — embody Owl Cave, Bear Cave, Hoehandle Cave, Ice Stalactite Cave and Water Cave.
Caves like Alabaster Caverns develop in six levels. The caves listed below are in the fourth stage, when the dashing waters have receded, leaving extra dry areas and permitting extra air in the cave. This is the mature stage.
Stages 5 and 6 describe the deterioration and collapse of the cave.
Actually, some scientists imagine the park’s Cedar Canyon is the results of a collapsed cave.
There’s a stunning overlook at one finish of the parking zone the place you will get a good view of the canyon.
There are additionally climbing trails in the park, picnic tables, a playground and tent and RV campsites.
But the foremost purpose to visit is to take a guided tour of the cave. I hadn’t visited the park for a number of years, so I used to be shocked to board a tram slightly than strolling down to the entrance.
The new entrance is definitely the previous exit. In 2018, motion in the earth introduced down 2,200 tons of rock, blocking the previous entrance to the cave and making it inconceivable to stroll by means of the complete cavern. Instead, guests stroll about midway in and again.
Unfortunately, a few of the most uncommon options are in the closed portion of the cave. This is the place uncommon, black alabaster — discovered solely in three locations in the complete world — could possibly be seen.
Still, there’s a lot to see in the different portion of the cave. Features with names like George and Martha Washington’s Upside-down Bathtubs, Cathedral Dome and Keyhole Dome present curiosity.
And you may study some historical past of the cave, as soon as a hideout for outlaws. In the 60s, it was designated a fallout shelter. It even appeared in a small-budget movie.
This is a simple cave to tour. While guests are cautioned that there are 330 stair steps in the cave, they’re well-spaced and straightforward on the knees.
Only the roughly 30 steps out and in are a bit difficult. They’re barely irregular, however there’s a sturdy handrail there and all through the cavern.
Be positive to put on good strolling footwear — no flip-flops. The path may be a bit bumpy and there are some slick moist spots. The temperature in the cave stays in the mid-50s.
If you are a bat fan, you might be disenchanted — we solely noticed one lone bat. Winter, when they’re hibernating, is the greatest time to see bats right here.
Entrance to the state park and parking are free. There is an admission cost for the guided tour. There is not any cost for kids below 5, however they do want a reservation.
Fees for ages six to twelve are $5; 13 to 61, $10; seniors and energetic army, $8.
Tours are given on the hour from 9 am till 4 pm Tours final about 45 minutes, with about three-fourths of a mile of strolling.
For those that are extra adventuresome, wild caving is permitted in the different caves.
Strict laws require permits, a minimal variety of spelunkers and a price. Overnight tenting is permitted in Water Cave, additionally with a variety of stipulations.
Call the park for specifics at 580-621-3381.
The drive to Alabaster Caverns from Norman is roughly 180 miles, about three hours and 45 minutes.
For me, street journeys of that size will certainly require a pit cease.
I used to be pleasantly shocked once I stopped at Gore’s Travel Plaza northwest of Seiling on US 270/OK 3. A mixture filling station, Sonic, comfort retailer, bistro and low store, it additionally obtained excessive marks for clear bogs. It’s not Buc-ees, nevertheless it’s one in every of the nicest services I’ve visited (and, belief me, I visit a lot of services!).
In quick, if you happen to’re in search of a full-day journey, a have a look at one in every of Oklahoma’s most fascinating options and an escape from the heat, put Alabaster Caverns in your go-to checklist. It’s cool inside.