Solutional cave

A solutional cave or karst cave is a cave usually formed in the soluble rock limestone. It is the most frequently occurring type of cave. It can also form in other rocks, including chalk, dolomite, marble, salt beds, and gypsum.[1]

Lechuguilla Chandelier Ballroom
Gypsum stalactites in a cave formed via sulfuric acid dissolution (Lechuguilla Cave, New Mexico)


Bedrock is dissolved by natural acid in groundwater that seeps through bedding-planes, faults, joints and so on. Over geological epochs these openings expand as the walls are dissolved to become caves or cave systems.

The portions of a solutional cave that are below the water table or the local level of the groundwater will be flooded.[2]

Limestone caves

The largest and most abundant solutional caves are located in limestone. Limestone caves are often adorned with calcium carbonate formations produced through slow precipitation. These include flowstones, stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, soda straws, calcite rafts and columns. These secondary mineral deposits in caves are called speleothems.

Carbonic acid dissolution

Limestone dissolves under the action of rainwater and groundwater charged with H2CO3 (carbonic acid) and naturally occurring organic acids. The dissolution process produces a distinctive landform known as karst, characterized by sinkholes and underground drainage. Solutional caves in this landform—topography are often called karst caves.

Sulfuric acid dissolution

Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico and nearby Carlsbad Cavern are now believed to be examples of another type of solutional cave. They were formed by H2S (hydrogen sulfide) gas rising from below, where reservoirs of petroleum give off sulfurous fumes. This gas mixes with ground water and forms H2SO4 (sulfuric acid). The acid then dissolves the limestone from below, rather than from above, by acidic water percolating from the surface.



United States



  1. ^
  2. ^ John Burcham. "Learning about caves; how caves are formed". Journey into amazing caves. Project Underground. Retrieved September 8, 2009.

External links

Anatakitaki Cave

Anatakitaki Cave, or the Cave of the Kopekas, is a karst cave located on Atiu, Cook Islands. The cave is a large solutional cave, with many offshoot chambers and passages. A freshwater lake is to be found at the base of the cave. The Tiroto Tunnel connects this lake to the Pacific Ocean, and can be waded along until the last portion which is totally submerged. There is a great array of all sorts of speleothems decorating the cave throughout its length. The cave's alternate name comes from its population of Atiu swiftlets, which roost in the cave in vast numbers. They never land outside of the cave, and use echolocation just like bats. Roots, mainly from banyan trees, permeate the cave to its furthest depths.


A cave or cavern is a natural void in the ground, specifically a space large enough for a human to enter. Caves often form by the weathering of rock and often extend deep underground. The word cave can also refer to much smaller openings such as sea caves, rock shelters, and grottos, though strictly speaking a cave is exogene, meaning it is deeper than its opening is wide, and a rock shelter is endogene.Speleology is the science of exploration and study of all aspects of caves and the cave environment. Visiting or exploring caves for recreation may be called caving, potholing, or spelunking.

Cave Without a Name

The Cave Without a Name is a limestone solutional cave in the Texas Hill Country region of central Texas. It is a National Natural Landmark.The cave is located 50 miles (80 km) from downtown San Antonio, and 11 miles northeast of Boerne off FM 474 and Kreutzberg Road. It has been commercially operated as a show cave and open for public tours since 1939. It is a member of the National Cave Association.

Cave of Salemas

The Cave of Salemas is located close to the village of Lousa in the municipality of Loures in the Lisbon District of Portugal. Discovered by archaeologists during the 1950s, the cave appears to have been occupied by humans as a temporary refuge during the Upper Paleolithic and used as a tomb during the Neolithic.

Located in a Cretaceous limestone outcrop, the cave is situated about 100 metres north of the Neolithic dolmen known as the Anta do Alto da Toupeira. It is a solutional cave and consists of a winding rift passage about 30 metres long and one metre wide. Although not unique in the area, it is the most developed cave, both in terms of size and depth. It was first explored in September 1959 by L. Albuquerque e Castro and then fully excavated by a team from the Geological Survey of Portugal, headed by O. de Veiga Ferreira, José Camarate Andrade França and Georges Zbyszewski, during two digs in November 1959 and in October- December 1960.The top levels excavated contained Neolithic materials, such as ceramic items, together with human bones consistent with the existence of a necropolis and the bones of small animals. The relatively few tools found suggest that the cave never served as a permanent dwelling for humans. Lower levels contained evidence of Solutrean lithic and bone tools and artefacts of the Upper Paleolithic, together with bones of various fauna. There is evidence that some of the Paleolithic levels were removed in part of the cave during the Neolithic to make way for the necropolis. Animal bones discovered included those of brown bears (Ursus arctos) and cave bears (Ursus spelaeus); leopards (Felis pardus) and Iberian lynx (Felis pardina); hyenas; wolves; and horses.Items collected are stored in Lisbon’s Geological Museum (Museu Geológico). Carbon dating puts the dates of human bones and a tooth from the Paleolithic as being from around 25,000 to 20,000 years ago.

Coves dels Hams

The Coves dels Hams (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈkɔβəz ðəlz ˈams]; Spanish: Cuevas dels Hams; English: "Fishhook Caves") are a Solutional cave system on the east coast of the Spanish Balearic Island of Mallorca. The caves are in the municipality of Manacor, about 1 km to the west of the town of Porto Cristo.Alongside the larger Coves dels Drach ("Cavern of the Dragon"), the Coves Dels Hams contribute to the cavernous tourist attractions in the eastern region of the island.

Crystal Cave (Wisconsin)

Crystal Cave is a cave located in Wisconsin’s Pierce County, near the Town of Spring Valley on Highway 29. The cave was discovered in 1881 by local brothers George and William Vanasse. Crystal Cave is a multi-level solutional cave formed in dolomite bedrock in the Prairie du Chien Group. The dolomite was formed 485 million years ago during the Lower Ordovician Period when a warm shallow ocean covered much of Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is Wisconsin’s longest known cave.

Dunmore Cave

Dunmore Cave (from Irish Dún Mór, meaning 'great fort') is a limestone solutional cave in Ballyfoyle, County Kilkenny, Ireland. It is formed in Lower Carboniferous (Viséan) limestone of the Clogrenan Formation. It is a show cave open to the public, particularly well known for its rich archaeological discoveries and for being the site of a Viking massacre in 928.

Haitón del Guarataro

The Haitón del Guarataro is a solutional cave system in the Sierra de San Luis in Falcón State, Venezuela, 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) south-east of Curimagua. It is the deepest limestone cave in Venezuela, and the entrance is a tourist attraction within the Juan Crisóstomo Falcón National Park. A large entrance shaft 12 metres (39 ft) in diameter leads via drops of 168 metres (551 ft), 55 metres (180 ft), and 19 metres (62 ft) to a stream passage which eventually chokes. It has a depth of 305 metres (1,001 ft), and a total passage length of 640 metres (2,100 ft). It was first explored and surveyed in April 1973 by members of the Venezuela '73 British Karst Research Expedition. It is formed in Oligocene reefal limestone.

Hang Sơn Đoòng

Sơn Đoòng Cave ([haːŋ˧ ʂəːn˧ ɗɔ̤ŋ˨˩]) is in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Bố Trạch District, Quảng Bình Province, Vietnam.

Located near the Laos–Vietnam border, Hang Sơn Đoòng has an internal, fast-flowing subterranean river and the largest cross-section of any cave, worldwide, as of 2009, believed to be twice that of the next largest passage. It is the largest known cave passage in the world by volume.

Its name, Hang Sơn Đoòng, is variously translated from Vietnamese as 'cave of the mountain river' or 'mountain cave of Đoòng [village]'.As a solutional cave, it was formed in soluble limestone and is believed to be between 2 and 5 million years old.

Kelly's Cave

Kelly's Cave is a limestone solutional cave and National Monument in County Mayo, Ireland.

Moaning Cavern

Moaning Caverns is a solutional cave located in the Calaveras County, California, near Vallecito, California in the heart of the state's Gold Country. It is developed in marble of the Calaveras Formation. It was discovered in modern times by gold miners in 1851, but it has long been known as an interesting geological feature by prehistoric peoples. It gets its name from the moaning sound that echoed out of the cave luring people to the entrance, however expansion of the opening to allow access for the public disrupted the sounds.

The portion of the cave developed for tourists consists of a spacious vertical shaft 165 feet tall, which is descended by a combination of stairs and a unique 100-foot-high (30 m) spiral staircase built in the early 1900s. It is open to the public for walking tours and spelunking. Including the off-trail areas, the cave reaches a depth of 410 feet (124 m).

Onyx Cave (Arizona)

Onyx Cave is a solutional cave system with about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) of passages formed in Permian limestone in the Santa Rita Mountains of Arizona. It is part of the Coronado National Forest. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974.

Rock shelter

A rock shelter — also rockhouse, crepuscular cave, bluff shelter, or abri — is a shallow cave-like opening at the base of a bluff or cliff. In contrast to solutional cave (karst) caves, which are often many miles long, rock shelters are almost always modest in size and extent.

Roodafshan Cave

The Roodafshan Cave, or Ghar-e Roodafshan, is a solutional cave located in Roodafshan valley, Damavand County, Tehran Province, Iran, in the Alborz mountains. Since 2003 the Verein für Höhlenkunde in Obersteier (Austria) with the Khaneye Koohnavardan-e-Tehran (Iran) has been surveying Roodafshan Cave.The length of this spacious cave is 1,502 m with a vertical distance of -90.6 m. The Roodafshan Entrance Hall with 168 m length, 94 m width, 40 m high and 11,395 m2 floor area is the second biggest documented cave chamber in Iran.

Skirwith Cave

Skirwith Cave is a major resurgence solutional cave on Ingleborough in Chapel-le-Dale, North Yorkshire, England; it was a show cave between 1964 and 1974. It is no longer open to the public but is still visited by cavers. It lies within the designated Ingleborough Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Tory's Cave (New Milford, Connecticut)

Tory Cave (or Tory's Cave) is a marble solutional cave near New Milford, Connecticut.While it is of modest size (the big room having enough space for two dozen people) it is said to be the only true cave in Connecticut. To protect bat colonies, the cave is closed to the public. Its name is based on a tale from the American Revolution, in which a Tory (a loyalist to the English monarchy) hid in the cave.

The cave is near the Housatonic River.

In 1996, Joe Hurley, writing in the Record Journal, reported that the cave's unique ecology was threatened by blasting from a nearby quarry.

The cave is home to a blind shrimp-like amphipod called a Stygobromus.


Waitomo is a rural community in the Waikato Region of New Zealand's North Island. It includes Waitomo Caves, a solutional cave system and popular local tourist attraction. Two villages, Waitomo and Hangatiki/Hangātiki, service visiting tourists.

The word Waitomo comes from the Māori language wai meaning water and tomo meaning a doline or sinkhole; it can thus be translated to be water passing through a hole. The caves are formed in Oligocene limestone.Waitomo Caves Hotel is located in the Waitomo township.

Weathercote Cave

Weathercote Cave is a natural solutional cave in Chapel-le-Dale, North Yorkshire, England. It has been renowned as a natural curiosity since the eighteenth century, and was accessible to paying visitors until 1971. The entrance is a large shaft about 20 metres (66 ft) deep, dominated by a waterfall entering at one end. It lies within the designated Ingleborough Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Yordas Cave

Yordas Cave is a solutional cave in Kingsdale, North Yorkshire, England. It has been renowned since the eighteenth century as a natural curiosity, and was a show cave during the nineteenth century. It is now a popular destination for cavers, walkers, and outdoor activity groups.

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