On our recent visit to Blue Mound State Park, we took the opportunity to also stop by Cave of the Mounds. Known as the “jewel box” of major American caves, Cave of the Mounds is a National Natural Landmark, which means it’s been recognized as a site that contains outstanding biological and/or geological resources.
Discovered by accident in 1939 by quarry workers who found an opening to the cave after a major blast to loosen the limestone. Work at the quarry then immediately stopped and was never continued.
So many people showed up (over 59,000 people in the first 8 weeks) out of curiosity that the cave was closed to prevent damage. The cave reopened in 1940, after lights and wooden walkways (now cement) had been installed.
There are some pretty interesting Cave of the Mounds facts:
- The Cave is more than 1 million years old.
- It takes approximately 100 years for cave onyx, or calcite, to grow 1 inch.
- The Cave has the same temperature (50 degrees) everyday, all year-long!
- There are no bats or other animals in the Cave. The only animals are springtails (Collembola), insects that live in pools of water.
- Cave in the Mounds has a 6-foot fossil of a giant cephalopod, a relative of the squid.
One of the best things about Cave of the Mounds is that taking pictures is not only allowed, but actually encouraged. Lights are turned on and off as you progress through the cave’s rooms, and generally I was making people wait as I tried to get every shot I could. Here’s a gallery of photos from our visit:
Depending on time of year, it’s best to buy Cave of the Mounds tickets ahead of time, though it’s not possible to reserve a specific tour time. Cave of the Mounds hours vary by time of year, so check on their website for most current information.
I hadn’t thought to look for Cave of the Mounds coupons, but it turns out you can search on the Internet and find plenty, though most seemed to be of dubious value. I searched but couldn’t find anything for a Cave of the Mounds Groupon, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one in the future, so keep looking!
The cave is located in Blue Mounds, WI, with no larger town nearby. Hotels near Cave of the Mounds are all more than a few miles away, and driving a little farther (20 miles or so) gets you into Madison, with many, many options. Camping is available at Blue Mounds State Park, just a few miles from the Cave.
Directions to Cave of the Mounds: