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USA: Nevada: Carson City, Cathedral Gorge, Ely, Great Basin, Hoover Dam - Lake Mead, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Lehman Caves, Primm, Red Rock Canyon, Reno, Virginia City
Lehman Caves, Nevada, USA: The Underground World
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Lehman Caves is a single cavern despite the name. Itís a unique phenomenon in the Great Basin. The cave extends a quarter-mile into the limestone and marble that flank the base of the Snake Range. It is one of the regionís most profusely decorated caves.
A night prior we were based at Ely, Nevada. I was in a group that was hosted by the Nevada Commission on Tourism for a 3-day trip to discover a few State and National Parks in the State of Nevada. At 7AM post breakfast, we drove through the Great Basin to arrive at Lehman Caves Visitor Centre at 8:45AM. Because it was not a Ďtourist seasoní there were hardly any visitors. During summers, the picture is totally different though.
Exploring the Great Basin and its many peaks is free of cost. However, thereís a charge to enter the Lehman Caves. Conducted tours of the caves are led by Park Rangers.
All visitors to Lehman Caves will be screened through a simple question and answer process. Visitors who have not been in any cave or mine in the past year, or who are not wearing any clothing, shoes, or other items that were in another cave or mine can go straight to their tour. If visitors do have on clothing, shoes, cameras or other items that were in another cave or mine, they will be required to either change or clean items before being allowed on the tour. Cameras or other hard items can be wiped down with decontaminate wipes (provided by the park) and shoe soles can be decontaminated by immersion in a solution bath for 10 minutes (also provided by the park). The process ensures that Ďcave contaminationí doesnít take place.
Cameras with flash are allowed in the caves but no tripods. Bags, purses, strollers, etc. are also not allowed. They can be left in the custody at the Visitor Centre. The guided tour lasts for about 60 minutes. The Ranger, with torch light in hand gives the history and narrates interesting stories.
What you see today started hundreds of thousands of years ago. Surface water, turned slightly acidic from carbon dioxide gas, mixed with water deep below the surface, dissolving the soluble rock at the horizontal water table. Evidence of the dissolving action from the slowly circulating water was recorded in the caveís rock as spherical domes in ceiling and spoon-shaped scallops on walls. Eventually the water drained from the cave, leaving behind hollow rooms and sculptured walls.
In the second stage of cavern development, water percolated down from the surface, carrying small amount of dissolved limestone (calcite). Drop by drop, over centuries, seemingly insignificant trickles deposited the wonders of stone. Lehman Caves has many familiar formations like stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, flowstone and soda straws. But there are also rarities like shields and popcorns.
Lehman Caves is at the foothills of Wheeler Peak. During summertime, visitors can drive and trek to this magnificent snow-clad peaks. And because we had no such intentions, we just enjoyed the beautiful mountain range and commenced our journey.
There was more to be explored.
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