The Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, overlooking Williams Canyon in Manitou Springs, Colorado, sits next to the picturesque Garden of the Gods. The garden’s majestic red rock formations, such as the “Kissing Camels” and the “Balancing Rock,” draw many visitors. But the rock formations and cave structures within Cave of the Winds, called speleothems, are just as intriguing. When you join a guided 45-minute Discovery Tour, you will learn about the cave’s geology and history as you explore the caverns and passageways.
A Brief History of Cave of the Winds
In the early 1880s, a pair of ten-year old twin boys stumbled into an entrance of Cave of the Winds, but the cave was more fully excavated by George Washington Snyder. The transplanted Midwestern stonecutter revealed the magnificent Canopy Hall and began to offer tours. In 1881 visitors hiked an hour to even begin the cave tour, dressed in their finest clothes. Admission was $1.00 at that time, the equivalent of a day’s wage, so only the wealthy could afford a visit. Although they were pretty much guaranteed to get dirty as they scuffled through the Cave of the Winds, patrons still dressed up for their day of diversion.
Although the tour used to end at Pickett’s column, George Jeffries donated money to continue excavating the cave. His caveat? That his name was mentioned on every tour and that he could place a line from one of his favorite poems in the cave:
“Dreams of mountains
As in their sleep
They brood on things eternal”
Although fitting, the C.A. Higgins’ passage from “Titans of chasms” was actually inspired by the Grand Canyon. With more areas to explore and the installation of the first light bulbs in 1907, the Cave of the Winds continues to awe visitors from around the world. The staff members also work hard to preserve the cave’s fragile structures and delicate ecosystem through visitor education, in addition to other cave conservation and restoration projects.
Unique Formations at Cave of the Winds
Brilliant guides bring the unique formations at Cave of the Winds to life. They will remind you that stalactites hang from the ceiling, while stalagmites rise up from the cave floor. But the fun names of specific features are most memorable. For instance, “Old Bruiser” is a monstrous stalactite, stationary – of course, but with a penchant for giving unsuspecting passersby a nasty bump on the head. And a particularly short passageway was aptly named “Tall Man’s Headache.” Marvellous striped ribbon stalactites are nicknamed “cave bacon,” and in good humor, the Colorado Cave Bacon strip dominates the Texas Cave Bacon in size. Continuing with the food theme Nature’s Popcorn Stand features a battalion of bulbous coralloids. Cave coral, also known white beaded anthodite, and delicate cave frost formations are also pointed out during the journey.
Additional Cave of the Winds Tours & Attractions
The Discovery Tour provides the quickest overall introduction to the Cave of the Winds, but other expeditions include the Lantern Tour and Caving 101. Walking the cave passageways with lanterns in hand harkens back to the historical tours, and the guide will share folklore and ghost stories. Intrepid adventurers will be able to dive into undeveloped areas within the cave system with Caving 101. However, the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park also an exhilarating outdoors adventure area complete with a 3-story aerial rope challenge course, a zip-line ride and free falls into Williams Canyon on the Terror-Dactyl. Whether you need to take shelter from the rain or you would like a cool natural respite from the summer sun, the Cave of the Winds provides activities to entertain the whole family.
Disclosure: Up&AtEm Travel was provided admission for the Cave of the Winds Discovery Tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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