• A water drop clings onto the edge of a orange stalactite, surrounded by white stalactites.

    Timpanogos Cave

    National Monument Utah

Cave / Karst Systems

Flowstone Formation

Greenish Helictites surrounding the Heart of Timpanogos

Jon Jasper

The Timpanogos Cave System is known for its abundance of helictites, the coloration in its formations, its display of fault-controlled passages, and its alpine surroundings.

Helictites are spiral formations that seem to defy gravity. In the Chimes Chamber in Timpanogos Cave, there are hundreds of 6 to 10 inch long helictites. These formations are created by capillarity attraction, hydrostatic pressure, and tiny (0.008 to 0.5 millimeter) central canals (Hill & Forti 1997). In simpler words, water is pushed and pulled through small openings where the forces of capillarity attraction and hydrostatic pressure are greater than the force of gravity.

Timpanogos Cave contains formations displaying colors of green and yellow. X-ray analysis shows this rare green and yellow coloring to be from nickel incorporated into the crystal structure. The x-ray analysis of the yellow reveals only calcite, and the green is from mainly aragonite. (White & Gundy 1974)

The passages in Timpanogos Cave are greatly controlled by faulting. Looking at a map of Timpanogos Cave, one sees many paralleling passages following the fault trends. Along the cave tour, visitors can see these fault lines running along the passages. The initial pathways that water followed were these faults. In some areas of the cave like the Imagination Room, passages dip along the bedding planes and follow the direction of the fault lines. Looking at the map of the cave, one wonders if other cave passages exist above or below these known passageways, following similar fault lines.

Timpanogos Cave is surrounded by an alpine environment. The cave trail adds to the remoteness of the cave and offers spectacular views of the geology. Unlike other show caves, this hike through the alpine environment to get to the cave is unique. Because of the elevation, the cave escapes the polluted air and contaminated watersheds. The cave is closed about 6 months out of the year due to heavy snowfalls. The cold winters and warm summers allow the cave to keep a stable 45° F (7° C) temperature year round.

Timpanogos Cave was established as a National Monument to preserve its features of unusual scientific interest and importance - features like its abundance of helictites, the coloration in its formations, its display of fault-controlled passages, and its alpine surroundings.

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