Travel: Escape the heat with a visit to Alabaster Caverns State Park | Society

When I was a little kid growing up in Kansas City, nobody had air conditioning. A big summer feast was going to the movies. Corrugated cardboard icicles, “It’s cool inside!” He decorated the frames with his message.

Today almost every building is air conditioned and on hot days we all just stay indoors. If you’re looking for a way to get out and still stay cool, Oklahoma has a unique state park that fills the bill.

The hill of Alabaster Caverns State Park may be hot, but step inside the cave and you’ll enjoy not only the warmth but also a fascinating geological feature.

Millions of years ago, this part of Oklahoma was covered by the Permian Sea, a shallow ocean. During the 47-million-year Permian Period, this sea rose and fell and formed layers of sediment.

Earth was shaken by earthquakes and volcanoes, and eventually large chunks of the planet were pushed above the water surface. Drying formed cracks in the rocks.

Eventually, the water seeped into the rocks and began washing the underground caverns. The water rushed through these underground cavities, opening more passages. Caves formed in this way are classified as solution/erosional caves.

Unlike the more common limestone caverns, Alabaster Caverns consists of a hard form of gypsum: alabaster. There are alabaster, gypsum and selenite in the cave.

Both limestone caves and gypsum caves are formed by water erosion. Chemicals in limestone caves create stalactites, stalagmites and other fantastic forms.

Plaster caves such as Alabaster Caverns do not have these features. Alabaster Caverns, one of the largest plaster caves in the world, is the only plaster cavern in the United States open to public tours.

There are actually several caves in the state park. The main cave is known as the Alabaster Caves. Other caves that are not open for tours – cavers can arrange visits – include Owl Cave, Bear Cave, Hoehandle Cave, Icicle Cavern, and Water Cave.

Caves like Alabaster Caverns evolve in six stages. The caves here are in the fourth stage, where the flowing waters recede, leaving drier areas and more air in the cave. This is the maturity stage.

The fifth and sixth stages describe the deterioration and collapse of the cave.

In fact, some scientists believe the park’s Cedar Canyon is the result of a collapsed cave.

At one end of the parking lot there is a beautiful view from which you can see a beautiful view of the canyon.

The park also has hiking trails, picnic tables, a playground, and tent and RV campgrounds.

But the main reason to visit is to take a guided cave tour. I hadn’t visited the park in several years, so I was surprised that I took the tram instead of walking to the entrance.

The new entry is actually the old exit. In 2018, the movement of the earth dropped 2,200 tons of rock, closing the old entrance of the cave and making it impossible to pass through the entire cave. Instead, visitors walk in and back about halfway through.

Unfortunately, some of the most unusual features are in the enclosed part of the cave. This is where the rare, black alabaster found in only three places in the world can be seen.

Still, there is much to see in the other part of the cave. Features such as George and Martha Washington’s Inverted Tubs, Cathedral Dome, and Keyhole Dome attract attention.

And you will learn a bit of history of the cave where bandits once hid. In the 60s, it was designated as a fallout shelter. He even appeared in a small-budget movie.

It is an easy cave to navigate. While visitors should be warned that there are 330 stair steps in the cave, these are well spaced and easy on the knees.

Only about 30 steps in and out is a bit of a challenge. They’re a little untidy, but there’s a solid handrail there and all around the cave.

Make sure you wear good walking shoes – no flip flops. The trail can be a bit bumpy and there are some slippery wet spots. The temperature in the cave remains in the mid-50s.

If you’re a bat fan, you might be disappointed – we only saw one lone bat. Winter is the best time to see bats here, when they hibernate.

State park admission and parking are free. There is an entrance fee for the guided tour. Children under the age of five are free of charge but must make a reservation.

Fees for ages six to twelve are $5; 13 to 61, $10; seniors and active military, $8.

Tours are given from 9 am to 4 pm. Tours take about 45 minutes and are about three-quarters of a mile in walking distance.

Wild caves are allowed in other caves for the more adventurous.

Strict regulations require permits, a minimum number of cavers, and a fee. Night camping is allowed in the Water Cave with certain conditions.

Call the park at 580-621-3381 for specifics.

The journey from Norman to Alabaster Caverns is approximately 180 miles, approximately three hours and 45 minutes.

For me, road trips of this length will definitely require a pit stop.

I was pleasantly surprised when I stopped at Gore’s Travel Plaza northwest of Seiling on US 270/OK 3. Comprised of a gas station, Sonic, convenience store, bistro and coffee shop, the hotel also received high marks for clean bathrooms. It’s not buc-ees, but it’s one of the most beautiful resorts I’ve visited (and believe me, I visit a lot of resorts!).

In short, if you’re looking for a full-day trip, a glimpse of one of Oklahoma’s most interesting features, and an escape from the heat, put the Alabaster Caverns on your to-do list. It’s cool inside.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.