The Passing of Time at Luray Caverns

It’s time to go below. Below where it is dark and cool. Below where no light exists unless one brings it along.

At the foothills of the Shenandoah mountains one can find Luray Caverns, in Luray, Virginia. Discovered in 1898, originally known as Luray Cave, these caves are now a National Natural Landmark. Over 500,000 visitors come to enjoy the cool and clean air in the caverns and enjoy geological phenomena with fancy words like Stalactites, Stalagmites, and Speleothem.

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Being a limestone cavern, calcium carbonate emits gases that create precipitation of lime. Drips form and create unique shapes over the extensive passing of time. Only one cubic inch accumulates per 120 years, and the caves date back to the Tertiary period, at least 2.6 million years ago.


The majestic beauty of past millennia is truly remarkable. Draperies hang delicately from the ceiling and are translucent in some sections.



In another area, Dream lake truly mystifies the mind. Perfectly pristine and still waters baffles even the keenest eye as it appears bottomless and mirrors the stalactites (from the ceiling) perfectly.

The textures and patterns of the geological formations within the caverns are unique. Fascinating with each swell, drape, drip and drop one can only wonder just how old each formation is.

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Perhaps one of the things Luray Caverns is best known for is having the world’s largest musical instrument. The Great Stalacpipe Organ uses thirty-seven stalactites that have been precisely tuned and has been featured on “Ripley’s Believe it or Not.”

Luray Caverns. A truly unique, below the earth’s surface experience that no one should miss if in the Shenandoah Valley area.

22 replies »

  1. Really nice work from a truly fascinating place, Emily.

    I almost made a stop at the Luray Caverns, about 15 years ago, but my plans fell through. Can I assume that tripods are allowed in the caverns?

    • Actually they don’t say no, but you have to stay with the group and they keep you moving. I bumped up the ISO to 2000 and hand held. Even a monopod would have been trouble as the angles were sometimes challenging.

      • Ugh. Sounds like Lower Antelope Canyon (there’s no way to take decent images, IMO, on the general tour there). Is there any provision for a “photographer’s pass” or anything like that? There is a way to do that at LAC and it makes all the difference in the world.

      • Are there are times when the guides might allow for shots if you offer to share them? I guess that might not be such a good idea if you want to sell your work, but how else could you get a really good set-up?

  2. There is a “Texas State Photographer” who works with the King Ranch a lot. I wonder if he is on a salary from them or if he does their photo shoots for publicity? You really ought to look into being a regular at this place. I hope this does not sound naive.

    • That is entirely possible for your Texas guy. I did a photo shoot for a car museum on Mount Desert Island in Maine and gave them the images for their use. I had full access to the museum before regular hours.

      I’m not near the caves, but if I was, I’d certainly look into more possibilities to really photographing them. Thanks!

  3. Wow, what an incredible place! There’s an aura of fantasy, almost – I would be surprised to see elf ears poking from behind the stalagmites, haha 😉 Gorgeous photos! x

  4. Well taken Emily – cave photos are really difficult to do but these are superb. And what a magnificent cavern – I would love to spend some time down there 🙂

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