Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973, Grand Caverns was known as Weyers Cave during the Civil War, and over 230 Civil War era signatures adorn its walls. The caverns were visited by Union and Confederate soldiers alike. The Pennsylvania 14th Cavalry camped here after the nearby battle of Opequon, and one their captains left a prominent signature on a cavern rock. After the battles of nearby Cross Keys and Port Republic, Stonewall Jackson's army camped along the South River and explored the cave by candlelight. Inside the cave, a chamber is named in Jackson's honor, and a formation is said to resemble his horse, Little Sorrel.
Grand Caverns were discovered in 1804 and opened for tours in 1806. They were named in honor of their discoverer, Bernard Weyer, and are the oldest continuously operating show caverns in America. A vast wonderment 200 feet below the earth's surface, the caverns contain many types of colorful formations including flowstone, draperies, soda straws, stalactites and stalagmites, as well as rare shields - a type of formation that has never been fully explained even to this day.
Grand Caverns is great for kids and kids-at-heart as it is fun and educational at the same time. In addition to guided tours of the caverns, there is a Virginia Museum of Natural History exhibit entitled Buried Treasures: Caves of the Virginias as well as a wildlife exhibit and Touch Table featuring real cave formations that kids can touch. An audio-video presentation gives spelunkers a sneak peek at the newly-discovered cavern that is now undergoing exploration.
The caverns are accessed by a rather steep walk up a paved road followed by a climb up a flight of stairs. The cavern tour follows a 1-1/2 mile dirt trail that is wet and possibly slippery in places. The trail is generally wide and level, and the caverns are generally large with vaulted ceilings. Grand Caverns features a gift shop, 2-1/2 miles of hiking and biking trails and picnic shelters in a park setting along the river.
Pictured at the top: Grand Caverns is a colorful and otherworldly landscape of fascinating and often abstract shapes.
Stonewall Jackson's men explored the Caverns by candlelight.
Grand Caverns features massive, yet intricate, draping and flowstone formations.
The Civil War graffiti at Grand Caverns includes signatures of the New York 38th and the 14th Pa. Cavalry.