Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park
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One of a Series of Publications on the Human and Natural History of Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks.
VOL. IMAY, 1946 No. 1




Extending across the western part of Sequoia National Park from northwest to southeast, there are numerous outcroppings of white crystalline marble, many of which are known to be cavernous to some extent. Caves have been partially explored in eleven different localities, but Crystal Cave is the only one that has been developed for public use. While the other caves are interesting, chiefly from a scientific viewpoint, they are not easily accessible nor do they compare favorably with Crystal Cave in extent or beauty.

Crystal Cave was discovered April 28, 1918, by C. M. Webster and A. L. Medley, National Park Service employees, while on a fishing trip along Cascade Creek a short distance above its junction with Cave Creek. It is situated in a vertical bed of marble 200 feet thick, which extends through the ridge between these two creeks. It was named by the then Superintendent, Walter Fry, who took immediate steps to protect it, by having a log barricade built across the entrance, until funds became available for development. (12). The cave was opened to visitors on May 29, 1940. The cave is open only during the summer months, when Park Rangers conduct scheduled trips through it daily. In addition to protecting the cave against vandalism, the Rangers explain its many features and suggest how it may have originated. There are many unsolved problems connected with the origin of the the cave, and some of the questions that arise may never be answered correctly.

Most parts of Crystal Cave that are accessible, as well as several other caves in the park ranging in altitude from 2,000 feet to 6,300 feet, have been explored. Some of the caves have their entrances near the level of surface streams in the bottoms of deep canyons, as at Crystal Cave, while others are situated near the tops of mountain ridges high above the level of present day streams. At least four of the lower caves have streams, and some now dry contain deposits of gravel which indicate the former existence of streams in them. Perhaps a complete geological survey might reveal a common origin for most of them, with minor variations induced by changes in drainage resulting from the series of uplifts which gave birth to the Sierra Nevada.

Early photo of C. M. Webster, co-discoverer of Crystal Cave, seated beneath the Cave Organ.

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Last Updated: 31-Jan-2007