Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Colossal Cave Mountain Park - 1/17/15

We had read about the folklore of Colossal Cave and then learned more about the park where it is located. Before leaving Tucson, we wanted to be sure to see this place.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park is located about 25 miles southeast of Tucson. In addition to the cave, there is a working ranch with riding stables, hiking trails and a very small.

Most of the world's caves are formed by rainwater dripping down through rock, picking up carbonic acid and gradually dissolving the rock to form passageways. However, some caves, including Colossal Cave, were formed by the upwell of deep, hot, sulfur-laden brine. Therefore, it is estimated that the cave was formed 12-20 million years ago. Another interesting geological aspect to this cave is that it is now a "dormant" cave. This is due to the lack of water in the cave, as this is required to grow new formations.

First, we went to the the gift shop where we purchased tickets for the tour of the cave. The one we chose takes about 50 minutes. They have exploratory type tours that are 3 hours or longer and involve a strenuous route. The Civilian Conservation Corps built the walkways, stairways, and installed railways and electrical lighting in Colossal Cave in the 1930s. This is the route that we took through the cave (the easy one!)

The gift shop had an interesting display of items that we perused while waiting for our tour to start. Check out these fossils.

Also in the visitor center/gift shop is a display of a well-known legend of 4 thieves who robbed a train and used the cave as a hideout. The sheriff and posse waited outside the cave entrance for 4 days  expecting to capture the outlaws when they ran out of supplies. Unbeknownst to the law, the thieves exited the cave by crawling through a tunnel, went to town, and eventually started bragging about their exploits. A townsperson rode out to the sheriff to tell him; resulting in a shootout between the opposing parties. Three of the thieves were killed and the 4th went to the prison in Yuma for 18 years. When he got out of prison, the sheriff watched him closely. The story goes that the train robber visited the Colossal Cave again, claimed the gold, and escaped yet again. All the sheriff found were empty money bags.

We met out tour guide at the front of the cave. There were 8 of us on the tour.  The tours are not pre-scheduled and are started based the number of individuals that arrive.

Artifacts were left by the Hohokam who used the cave for shelter from 950-1450 AD.  The black on the top of the cave in this photo is where fires were built during that time period.

Below are some other interesting formations we saw during our tour.

The "drapery" room.
Bacon formation.

There are many side tunnels that provide several other exits from the cave.

The cave was re-discovered in the the late 1870s by a local rancher. In the early 1900s, Franklin Schmidt purchased the land and provided tours through the cave.

This sculpture is a tribute to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) who worked in the cave from 1934-37.

View of the park from the gift shop.

We drove to the area of the La Posta Quemada Ranch.

After eating a picnic lunch there, we some exploring along the Bundrik Hiking Trail with our doggy, Sadie.

Windmill at the ranch.

Near the ranch is the Desert Spoon Fresh-Air Cafe, a butterfly garden, an enclosed tortoise habitat, and a one-room museum of the CCC. The workers of the CCC did much of the work in our national parks and monuments that enable us to enjoy these amazing treasures today. Their work was dangerous and difficult. In the 1930w, the workers were paid approximately $30 a month; $25 of it was sent home to their families and the workers kept $5 a month as spending money.

We continued onto this trail.

We have seen a couple of these, but they are quite rare (saguaro crest).

Sadie and I sitting on a mesquite tree.

"The Cowboy" by Buck McCain, in tribute to a special breed. 1996. And that's my cowboy standing next to him!

On our way out of the park, we encountered some livestock!

A final farewell message.

Admission to Colossal Cave Mountain Park is $5/vehicle for a day use fee. The tour of the cave is $13/adults. Our Tucson Attractions Passbook Savings coupon got us a buy-one-get-one-free admission. We enjoyed the tour of the cave and hiking on the beautiful grounds of the park. Check out their website for additional information.

Website: www.colossalcave.com

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