The Grand Canyon Caverns is a “dry” or “dead” limestone cavern discovered in 1927 by a woodcutter, Walter Peck, on his way to play poker with some friends. On his way he stumbled and almost fell into a large hole.
The next day, he and his friends with ropes and lanterns went to explore the hole. They found a very large dark cavern. They thought they might have found some gold in the cavern and were very disappointed when the assay sample report came back with no gold.
They also found the remains of two human skeletons and the remnants of a horse saddle. This was exciting news and soon scientists came from the east to study the bones. Since there was no gold to be found, Peck, who was ambitious, decided that he would charge 25 cents for a tour of the caverns.
In late 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) made a deal with Peck. If he would furnish all the equipment, they would build a new entrance to the caverns.
When the entrance was finished, the improved access included several components. The first 30 feet into the Caverns was a wooden staircase. Then came 3 ladders 15 feet each. The last 60 feet was a swinging suspension bridge. Now more than one person could enter the caverns at a time. This was the only way to enter and leave the caverns until 1962. Then a new shaft was put in and a modern elevator was installed. The natural entrance was sealed off forever.
The mystery of the two skeletons has been solved. In the winter of 1917-1918, a group of Hualapai Indians were out cutting wood up on the Cavern hilltop when two of them became sick and died of the flu epidemic. They didn't want to bring the diseased bodies back to the tribe so they buried them in a small hole on the hilltop. They didn't know that the hole was actually a cavern.
Because the two bodies were buried in this hole, the Hualapais consider this area sacred. When the elevator was completed the natural entrance was closed as requested by the Hualapais.
Other discoveries in the caverns were and extinct giant ground sloth that has been extinct for 11,000 years. At one time this sloth stood 15 feet high and would have weighed about 2000 pounds.
The Grand Canyon caverns are the largest dry caverns in the United States. The air in the caverns travels through 60 miles of limestone caves and exits at the Grand Canyon.
You can take a 45 minute guided tour which will take you down 21 stories over 210 feet. This will take you through two chambers, the Chapel of the Angels and the Halls of Gold. The caverns remain at at temperature of 56 degrees so bring a sweater or jacket.
This is a great adventure if you're interested in geology and archeology.
Location: the Grand Canyon Caverns are 12 mi/19 km east of Peach Springs Arizona on Route 66 at mile marker 115. It is 2 ½ hours from Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Nearby There is a new RV campground with water and electrical hookups as well as showers and dump station. There is also a store nearby for supplies. The Grand Canyon Caverns Inn is located there as well.
Activities There are hiking trails, horseback riding and jeep tours.
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