Cave of the Mounds EarthCache
In Wisconsin, United States
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This is not your typical geocache, it is an EarthCache, you will not be looking for a "cache container" rather, an EarthCache is designed to bring you to a geological feature. See http://www.earthcache.org/ for further details.
A history of Cave of the Mounds
Cave of the Mounds takes its name from the Blue Mounds, two large hills which have long been Wisconsin landmark features. Cave of the Mounds lies under the southern slope of the East Mound. This area was first settled by Ebenezer Brigham. He was the first permanent white settler in 1828. On August 4, 1939, workers on Brigham Farm discovered a cave when blasting for limestone. The workers were amazed by the large opening in the rock! They had no idea that they had been farming and working the land on top of this exceptional geological find for many years.
Since this discovery, many have been curious and excited to see the cave formations. Cave of the Mounds was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1988 because the site possesses “exceptional value as an illustration of the nation’s natural heritage and contributes to a better understanding of man’s environment”. This cave has been referred to as the “jewel box” of America’s major caves for the variety and delicacy of its formations. Lights and wooden walkways were installed so that visitors could see the cave without destroying the natural features.
Every year in August the cave has a special Discovery Days celebration to mark the anniversary.
The science of Cave of the Mounds
The cave was formed within limestone, a sedimentary rock formed from compacted seashells and other marine sediments. These were deposited in Wisconsin long ago when shallow seas covered the continent. The seas receded, leaving the layers of rock behind and erosion began to wear them down. Today, the exposed rock in Blue Mounds is a limestone called Galena dolomite, which is a specific kind of limestone containing at least 20% magnesium.
The cave was formed when the Galena dolomite was beneath the water table. Rainwater and melting snow absorbs carbon dioxide, making the top layer of the water table acidic. This can dissolve the limestone and create cavities in the rock. When there is a major crack that lets large amounts of this acidic water into the limestone, even larger amounts of the rock is dissolved. This cave was formed along a major crack that can still be seen in the cave, called the “lifeline” of the cave.
Underground streams and surface water continued to re-shape the cave. Drops of water leave calcite crystals on the cave ceiling, walls or floor. The crystals adhere to each other and grow into different kinds of formations, called speleotherms. This happens very slowly. It can take 50-150 years to deposit one cubic inch of “cave onyx”.
Stalactites and Stalagmites
Stalactites are pointed pendants hanging from the cave ceiling, from which they grow.
Stalagmites are the "ground-up" counterparts of stalactites, often blunt mounds.
Stalactites are speleotherms which form on the ceiling of a cave. All stalactites begin as hollow circles when crystals of calcite form around the outer surface of a droplet of water hanging from the ceiling. As each new drop of water appears, it leaves another crystal ring. Soon long crystal soda straws hand from the ceiling. These tubular stalactites grow into cones of icicles if the initial tube becomes plugged and the crystals form around its outer surface.
To log this cache you will not actually have to enter the cave (although I would highly encourage you to do so!) or any of the buildings. There is no charge for parking so you will only have to pay if you decide to tour the cave. Should you decide to take the tour you will need to pay $15 for adults, $7.50 for children ages 4-12, and children ages 3 and under are free with a paid adult. Tour times change depending on the season so for more information please visit www.caveofthemounds.com/tourinfo.htm. The buildings and property are usually open an hour after the last tour. Please note that visitors are not allowed on the property after closing so make sure you check the tour schedule. The tours require about 1/3 mile of walking and the cave maintains a constant temperature of 50 degrees so you may want to bring a light jacket. This is a great area for outdoor enthusiasts as there are a few hiking or biking trails, a rain garden, a museum and visitor’s center, a gift shop and a natural prairie restoration project. My children’s favorite part is the gem mining sluice. Also, you can put a stamp in your National Parks Passport, if you have one, at the Visitor Center.
Cave of the Mounds is located twenty five miles west of Madison just off U.S. Highways 18 and 151 between Mount Horeb and Blue Mounds. There are many touristy things to do, as well as State Parks and recreation in the area. There are many picnic tables in the parking lot.
To find the answers to the following questions you will need to visit the informational sign at the end of the parking lot at the coordinates listed above. You will need to also need to visit a sign just outside of the gift shop and cave entrance at N 43 01.059 W 089 48.914 for the rest of the answers and to read more about the land formations in the area. Please complete all of the following to log this cache:
1. What is the Cavers motto?
2. What is the ceiling height at the Diamond stalactite?
3. There are several oval-shaped photos of cave formation on this sign. How many are there?
4. On the sign titled “We invite you to explore this unique area above and below ground” there is one of several of the area sinkholes. What is it named?
5. What is this area known as? Fill in the blank: “As a result, this area, known as the _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Area, stands as an island of hills and valleys dotted with limestone piers and outcrops.”
6. Below the Glacial Deposits of Wisconsin sign there are two pieces of a speleotherm from inside this cave. Do you think that it is a Stalactite or a Stalagmite? Why?
BONUS: We are no longer allowed to require a photo for submission requirements but you would make this CO very happy if you would take a picture of your caching team in the area or in the cave and choose to upload it. Again, not a requirement, it just would be nice. :-)
Permission for this cache was granted to me by Joe Klimczak, General Manager of Cave of the Mounds - National Natural Landmark on 9/10/10.
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Congratulations kungfuhippie for being the FTF!
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Our kids enjoyed using the sluice just outside the cave entrance to mine for gems.
The parking lot sign
Here are our kids visiting Cave of the Mounds.
Last Updated: on 6/15/2013 5:27:42 PM Pacific Daylight Time (12:27 AM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum