The online site of USA Today recently showcased a series of 30 photos from a guided descent into the Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, Arizona. The spectacular photos featured some awesome natural scenery, as well as some highly unusual man-made creations in the caverns, giving viewers the sense of experiencing the descent themselves. An actual guided tour of these caverns lasts about 45 minutes and covers three-quarters of a mile.
In the first photo in the series, a group of visitors can be seen walking down a trail entering the yellowish, limestone caverns on a guided tour conducted on June 14. The side of the trail is lit with a string of lights attached to fencing, to ensure visitor safety. The next few photos show more of the rugged limestone walls and ceilings of the caverns, which are located amid the grassy plains of northern Arizona, about 22 miles west of Seligman. The limestone (which is mainly calcium carbonate) making up these caverns originally formed in a vast ocean that covered the region hundreds of millions of years ago. That ocean was home to limestone-secreting animals, such as brachiopods, echinoderms, mollusks, and corals. Today, the caverns are dry and virtually lifeless. [NOTE: The USA Today article says totally lifeless, but I do not believe that. I am sure there are bacterial organisms or other microbes somewhere in those caverns.]
One interesting photo in the series shows the silhouette of Levi Goldsmith, the lead guide for the June 14 tour, backlit by a round cavern opening as he stands on a swinging bridge in the so-called Halls of Gold. Even more interesting images show the Cave Room, which is actually a functioning motel suite located 220 feet below the surface. The suite is usually reached by an elevator that takes visitors down 22 stories, though stairs are also available. A sign outside the Cave Room describes it as the oldest, deepest, darkest, largest, and quietest motel room in the world—noting that the room is millions of years old, 155 feet wide, 400 feet long, and 70 feet high.
Several pictures show the accommodations of the Cave Room—including a television set, book shelves, tables, lamps, couches, chairs, and beds—surrounded by the rough limestone walls and ceiling. It looks quite cozy, if also quite strange. And, of course, no motel room would be complete without a bathroom, which is also shown in the photos. John Riffle, a gray-haired fellow with a mustache and black cowboy hat, is seen in one of the pictures. Riffle stayed in the Cave Room with his wife, Bev, on Valentine’s Day.
The Cave Room is only one of the unusual sites one encounters during an exploration of the Grand Canyon Caverns. One might also come across a mummified bobcat, which, according to the sign posted by the dried carcass, “died approx. 1850”, and a life-size model of an extinct giant ground sloth (standing at the spot where skeletal remains of this animal were found). A fallout shelter is stocked with supplies to use in case of some cataclysmic disaster, like a nuclear war. The shelter was stocked by government officials during the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis, with enough preserved food, water, and other items to support as many as 2,000 people for as long as two weeks. Those items are apparently the same supplies that remain today.
The final few photos in the series show the gift shop inside the caverns complex and models of dinosaurs standing outside the entrance. The Grand Canyon Caverns complex also includes a restaurant, RV park, and riding stables.
Check out photos here!