Landmark Room, Black Chasm Cavern, Amador County

Caves in the Sierra Nevada Foothills

The geologically complex Sierra Nevada Mountains have produced not only gold, but a number of limestone caves. Several cave systems are open to the public.

Boyden Cavern, in the Kings River Canyon, is reached via state highway 180 from Fresno. It was discovered by a P.H. Boyden in 1907. After a steep five- minute walk to the cave's entrance, tour guides lead visitors through the cave's wonders on a 45-minute walk.

Moaning Cavern, near the tiny town of Vallecito, features archeological artifacts, with some skulls found here dating back 12,000 to 15,000 years. Visitors access a large vertical chamber here via a long spiral staircase. More adventurous visitors can choose to rappel the 165 feet to the bottom of the chamber. Adventurers can also choose to go on a strenuous, three-hour exploration of undeveloped sections of the cave.

California Caverns is an approximately 45-minute drive from Moaning Cavern. To reach California Cavern, go east from San Andreas on Mountain Ranch Road. Turn right on the second Michell Road turnoff and follow the signs. Designated State Historic Landmark #956, this horizontal cave takes visitors to many highly decorated chambers. The cave was discovered in 1850 by a miner who noticed a cool breeze as he was setting up some targets for shooting practice. A mining camp called Cave City was located here from aboaut 1851 and 1875. Once known as Mammoth Cave, California Cavern was visited by such local luminaries as Mark Twain, Bret Harte and John Muir. The cave tour takes 60 to 80 minutes. A special adventure tour takes visitors to undeveloped areas of the cave; this tour includes rafting across subterranean lakes.

Black Chasm Cavern (which finally opened to the public on a limited basis on September 30, 2000) features rare and beautiful helictite crystals in its "Landmark Room." Other special attractions here include a "Hall of Arches" and the "Colossal Room," which is 100 feet across and 150 feet deep, with massive bridges crossing dark lakes beneath. This newly opened cave is located near Pinegrove east of Jackson via Highway 88 and the Volcano-Pinegrove Road.

Mercer Caverns is a mile north of Murphys off Sheep Ranch Road. Walter Mercer discovered these caves in 1885 when he was looking for water on a hot September day. Cold air blasted his legs, and he followed the air to the caves, which he excavated for public access by 1887. The temperature inside is a constant 55 degrees F.

At Black Chasm, delicate helictite crystals form into a dragon shape (upper left). The dragon is the "mascot" of the cave.
Home | Recreation | Lifestyle | Maps | Real Estate | Articles | Advertise Here | Contact Us
Please note: all photographs and other illustrations on this site are ©

Do not copy without permission.