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Photo of the DeSoto Caverns
Onyx Room--DeSoto Caverns

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DeSoto Caverns
A Local Legacy

Would you like to go spelunking? Do you know what it is? Spelunking is the exploration of caves as a hobby, including measuring and mapping caves and reporting on the plants or other things that grow in them.

The DeSoto Caverns in north central Alabama are a great place to go spelunking. They have one of the most awe-inspiring collections of stalagmites and stalactites found in the United States. A stalagmite is a cone-shaped mineral deposit that forms upward; a stalactite forms downward.

The caves have a long history. The earliest inhabitant was Archaic man (Archaic Period, 8,000 to 1,000 B.C.), a cave-dweller who lived on small game, fish and nuts. During the 1500s it was explored by the Spanish. In 1796, Benjamin Hawkins, a U.S. agent appointed by George Washington, wrote about the magnificent beauty of the DeSoto Caverns in a report, making it the first officially reported cave in the United States. During the Civil War, the DeSoto Caverns became a site for mining saltpeter, used in making gunpowder for the Confederate Army.

In 1965, the caverns were officially opened to the public. With high-power electric lights the caverns' colorful beauty could be fully appreciated. Today, DeSoto Caverns hosts several major weekend festivals each year.

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