Have you ever seen things that are out of place, like a hat on a fence post or a cellphone on a sidewalk? How about Santa Claus in a cave? How about bacon? Well, if you tour the amazing Cosmic Cavern in Berryville, Arkansas, and descend 400 feet into its underworld corridors and rooms, you’ll see weird sights like those and more — ghosts, curly fries, clumps of worms — but they’re all actually speleothems, commonly known as cave formations or features. Caves have stalactites, which point down from the ceiling like fingers, and stalagmites, which reach upward and are often fat and blunt. If they meet together, they form a column.
One type of stalactite is called a soda straw because it’s long and skinny. In one section of Cosmic Cavern called “Silent Splendor,” you’ll find the biggest soda straw in the Ozarks — it’s nine feet long! You could drink a lot of soda pop with a straw that size!
Another cool Cosmic feature is a curtain. These are very thin, often translucent sheets of folded minerals. Many have stripes that make them look like bacon. You’ll also see cave popcorn on the walls that might tempt you as a snack, but you probably wouldn’t like crunching down on those rocky bumps!
So, maybe you’re wondering how caves and their amazing shapes were created. Cosmic Cavern, like other caves in Arkansas, is made of limestone. Over time, water washes over the rock, and the acid in it eats away the limestone to form hollow underground spaces. As water rich in minerals constantly drips down from the cave ceiling, the minerals harden to form stalactites and stalagmites. These “grow” as the drips continue, but very s-l-o-w-l-y – like maybe less than an inch in 100 years.
It also features two spectacular lakes — the South and North Lakes — that are the largest underground lakes in the Ozark mountains and reported to be bottomless. Divers who explored the depths to conduct scientific measurements could never find the bottom!