Alabama’s state parks feature everything from hunting, fishing, boating, canoeing, bird watching, wildlife peeping, swimming, camping, hiking, biking, arts and crafts, family activities, golfing, horseback riding, and much, much more. Most have places to either eat or stay in the park or close by. While Cathedral Caverns offer some of these, it remains mostly primitive with good reason. This is Alabama’s newest park.
There are five state parks offering restaurants in full-service lodges. Eleven parks have cottages, cabins and chalets. Two of the state parks offer rental campers. However, the Cathedral Caverns State Park in Woodville (35 miles east of Huntsville) offers only very primitive tent camping at designated sites with fire pits. A single water spigot serves the entire camping community. Porta-toilets are close by.
The entrance to Cathedral Caverns is the most unique of all the parks. Passing under the massive archway, the uniqueness of the park is immediately apparent. The entry is through a huge opening that is about 25 feet high and 126 feet across.
The new, modern welcome center has refreshments, gifts, restrooms, souvenirs and lots of information about the park and tours through the caves. As you enter into the bowels of Gunter Mountain, the dark, cool and clammy environment welcomes visitors into the caves and caverns. However, for the personal protection of visitors, no one can enter the Cathedral Caverns unless a tour guide is leading a supervised group through the caves.
Stalagmite Mountain, a massive column called
“Goliath” and The Frozen Waterfall are three of the attractions along cave trails. Along the tour trail is a spot known as Big Rock Canyon, the Mystery River and dripping stalactites that hang from the ceilings, some as high as 45 feet ceiling-to-floor.
Take nothing but pictures
Leave nothing but footprints,
Kill nothing but time.
The atmosphere, as you enter, can be somewhat foggy. Those caves are dependable weather forecasters. Fog is an indicator of rain within a day or two. Most park visitors arrive in June, July or August and the cool environment inside the caverns proves to be a stark contrast to the sweltering summer heat outside. Cave temperatures remain constant at 57-60 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
Artificial lighting exposes a geological wonder beyond any other formation in the world. Cathedral Caverns has one impressive spot where a stalactite and a stalagmite join to form an epic column. The formation is appropriately named “Goliath” for its 45-foot height, 40-foot thickness and 243-foot girth.
There are only three close competitors to Cathedral Caverns for size, beauty and formations. They are 1) Mammoth Caves, Kentucky, 2) Luray Caverns, Virginia and 3) Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.
These particular caves are quite rare. Others sites may be longer or higher. However, Cathedral Caverns have volume – length, width and height. Archeologists from two universities say that formations inside the caverns are millions of years in age. Artifacts estimated at 200 to 9,000 years old were inside the caves.
The wonder of Cathedral Caverns attracts visitors from all over the world and around the neighborhood. There is a certain fascination with geological formations, their history and the archeological findings associated with caves. When the caves have formations that are as beautiful and massive as those in Cathedral Caverns, interest is especially high.
Cathedral Caverns State Park often hosts school field trips, scout groups and church groups. Since the caves maintain a constant temperature during all 12 months, anytime is a good time to visit Alabama’s newest state park.