NNL Caves

Graphic drawing of two people exploring a cave feature
Cave artwork produced by Dennis Caldwell for the National Park Service.


Characterized by a natural opening in the ground extending beyond the zone of light, caves occur in a wide variety of rock types. They can range in size from single, small rooms to interconnecting passages many miles long. Solution caves are the most common and well-known type of cave; others include lava, sea, and glacier caves. Spelothems, or cave formations, such as stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and drapery are mineral deposits that decorate the interior of most caves.

Caves provide habitat for many animals, including those that live in complete darkness and have evolved to be eyeless. Others may utilize a cave or cave entrance for a portion of their lives, such as bats or salamanders.

From limestone caverns to volcanic lava tubes, there are national natural landmarks designated for their outstanding illustration of the different types of caves. Some of these include:

Shelta Cave, AL
Cathedral Caverns, AL
Onyx Cave, AZ
Black Chasm Cave, CA
Lake Shasta Caverns, CA
Mitchell Caverns and Winding Stair Cave, CA
Florida Caverns Natural Area, FL
Donaldson Cave System and Woods Site, IN
Marengo Cave, IN
Wyandotte Cave, IN
Marvel Cave, Missouri
Lost Sea (Craighead Caverns), TN
Cumberland Caverns (Higginbotham and Henshaw Caves), TN
Natural Bridge Caverns, TX
Cave Without a Name, TX
Caverns of Sonora, TX
Grand Caverns, VA
Luray Caverns, VA
Organ Cave System, WV
Lost World Caverns, WV
Cave of the Mounds, WI

Last updated: May 8, 2020


  • Site Index