USA Today wants to find nation’s best cave | PostIndependent.com

USA Today wants to find nation’s best cave

Two girls enjoy features of historic Fairy Caves at Glenwood Caverns.
Jack Affleck / Provided |

Glenwood Caverns has been nominated as a Best Cave in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice travel awards contest. Voters have until April 11 to choose and can vote daily at http://tinyurl.com/CaveVote.

Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves have previously been recognized by USA Today as one of the Top 10 Best Places to Go Underground and by Denver Westword as Best Family Cave Tour.

It is the largest show cave open to the public in Colorado and contains the most highly decorated cave room in the state, King’s Row. Cave tours are the top attraction at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and draw visitors from around the world to Glenwood Springs.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Glenwood Caverns was in 11th place in the voting.

The Fairy Caves originally opened to the public in the 1890s, when it became a thriving tourist destination. Charles W. Darrow, a pioneering Glenwood Springs attorney, and his family homesteaded the top of Iron Mountain, including the cave entrance.

Darrow opened Fairy Caves to visitors in 1895. At that time the known extent of the cave was about 800 feet. Today Glenwood Caverns, including the Historic Fairy Caves, has more than 16,000 known feet. When the Fairy Caves opened to the public, visitors could get to the caves by walking up a trail, by riding a horse or burro, or by being transported in style in a horse-drawn carriage. Today, visitors travel to the Historic Fairy Caves in a gondola on the Iron Mountain Tramway.

By 1897, Darrow had wires strung up the mountain from the hydroelectric plant in Glenwood, which was one of the first cities in the United States with electric lights. Fairy Caves became one of the first caverns in the world to be lit by electricity.

At the time Darrow was developing the site as a tourist destination, little was known about the preservation of caves. Unfortunately, when heat and outside air are allowed into a cave, as was done with the portion of the cave known as the Fairy Caves, the cave stops growing and living.

The caves were closed for 82 years until the current owners, Steve and Jeanne Beckley, reopened them to the public in 1999.

Today, visitors can experience both the Historic Fairy Caves and the living Glenwood Caverns sections of the cave. The living caves are moist, maintain a constant 52 degrees and continue to grow crystalline formations. Fairy Caves, under the Beckley’s care, also are beginning to grow again.


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