March 31, 2015

Gypsum Flowers ThornHill Cave, Kentucky

 We get a late start on the road down to upton Kentucky where the Lone Star Preserve is located.  Its quite the far drive and rolling into the campsite at 3pm with a wake up call at 8 am, and a arrival at 10am in the 15 degree weather makes the night long and short at the same time.  Kinda like a paradox where you close your eyes and you open them seconds later to a car engine, blink once more and the sun is automatically out.  It took us around 45 minutes to drive from Lone Star to the Thornhill property but we made it in good time.

Pure White Formation in the Wedding Cake room, ThornHill Cave

We finally made it to the landowners property and we saw Dan and his wife walking their dogs walking down the dirt road from the cave to let us through the gate.  Man I am so glad I got a new Subaru, this car just ate up the wet muddy road and was able to scale over boulders and a ledge with ease.  This allowed us to drive right up to the cave entrance which made for a great entry and exit. 

Entrance to Thornhill Cave, Kentucky
The Property was beautiful.  They had a nice set up with a flower gardern, a place for their home, a fire spot, a beautiful out house facility, a nice lot of land in the hills and one 17 mile cave system called Thornhill cave.  To some, this is the dream house with ocean front property!...there was a 40ft pit on the property that I didnt even know existed.  
Thornhill Cave, Kentucky
 I am sure that there are many pit caves and other caves in the area that are not that known and I am sure there are some caves that are known but are not discussed, like the passage that we went to visit today.  We went on a journey to visit the Wedding cake room and it was quite the experience to travel through that cave, from a maze of cold wet muddy passages, to a nine inch belly crawl passage called the "Meat Grinder" and into the gypsum highway which led us to the wedding cake room. 
Wedding Cake Room, Thornhill Cave, Kentucky
8 of us went into the cave and followed the landowner through the system on a truly great experince.  This is a cavers cave and it has a lot to present. We go through breakdown passage that takes us to river passages and meandering stoop walking and hands and knees crawling water cut passage. We passed through some nice cave slot canyon passage that had some great fluted walls and talon cut passage in some upper level dry sections and lower level wet passages. 
Thornhill Cave, Kentucky

we went over this series of mud climb and slides which was like a roller coaster of sort that was a lot of fun...and super muddy!!! 

In the lower passage, the water was draining from a few small holes that flowed down as a pretty waterfall. There was a little bit of chimneying, stemming, and climbing which was rather slippery but a lot of fun.  Than we got to the meat grinder. This got interesting as it is a low belly crawl over rocks and it gets doen to 9 inches at times.  Yup this is a natural filter discriminating from the healthier looking cavers.   We pushed through with some good speed and finally get to the last slot canyon that we climb up into the formation room passage.
Thornhill Cave, Kentucky

We took a break here and started to make our way over towards the formation room which was a jailhouse looking stoop walking passage with small rimstone dams and soda straws in the walls. this was really beautiful.
Thornhill Cave, Kentucky
  I wanted to make sure I was able to get everyone involved in some of the photos if they were interested in participating which everyone was of course.  We work our way past the formation room into this hard and soft sandy passage that had some beautiful colors and beach like sand down the whole passage. 
Thornhill Cave, Kentucky
 It was quite beautiful and easy walking passage.
we came to a T section and this is where the large trunk passage opened up and kept going...large
trunk passage!!!!

Gypsum Hallway Thornhill Cave, Kentucky

 We start down this trunk passage and it reminded me a bit of King Leo cave but with more crystal formations.  On the walls the gypsum sparkled and small sheets of gypsum were peeling from the walls.  Gypsum Flowers could be found in the lower levels of the passage and were some of the biggest formations I have seen in any cave. 

Gypsum Flowers Thornhill Cave, Kentucky
Gypsum flowers have particles of sand and opaque in nature and must be in an arid area in order to grow the way they do.  The water evaporates out of the mineraland can leave anhydrite. 
Gypsum Flower Thornhill Cave Kentucky
Gypsum crystals expand slightly as they form from saturated water solutions, providing the needed pressure to extrude the crystals from the cave wall or sediment.  

Gypsum Flower Thornhill cave kentucky
The Gypsum Needles and Hair expand out of solution in either a curved pattern or linear pattern for gypsum hairs.

Gypsum Hair ThornHill Cave, Kentucky

Since ice expands slightly as it freezes, ice deposits in caves can sometimes form similar-looking needles, hairs, and flowers.  Selinite Crystals were also in the cave and were some of the longest selinites I have seen.  This is a similar evaporite to calcium Sulfate Hemihydrate but over all Gypsum is a bi-product of sulfide oxidation as sulfuric acid and carbonic acid reacts with calcium Carbonate to for this product.

Gypsum Flowers Thornhill cave Kentucky

Gypsum is also deposited from springs, lake, sea, and volcanic deposits which can be found as rings around dry pools and other features.  

Wedding Cake Room ThornHill Cave, Kentucky
We continued on and eventually we came up to the Wedding Cake room. This was a beautiful column formation with embedded with sediment deposits but some of the formations were a solid white color!  really amazing to see!  Behind the the formations and growing above them were intricate helictite formations and lots of them!

Wedding Cake Room helictites
After taking some pics and unintentionally freezing the group from waiting for pictures to be set up, we started our way out of the cave.  We all had a blast going through this system and we were so happy we could share these experiences with some seasoned cavers including the landowner who has been visiting this cave for the past 30 years.  He has been to this cave over 100 times!  I can see why as the cave keeps uncovering new passages but it also keeps the beauty pristine with a maze of passage and natural filters...along with a gate near the entrance which keeps vandals from wrecking the cave.  WNS hit the bats pretty hard here but with the continued efforts that the landowner and his wife make, this cave is among the best systems.  Once we got out of the cave, the land owners wife had soup, brownies, and warm water waiting for us!! I was so grateful that we not only got a chance to be invited to a great place but we were able to photo and share some wonderful memories that we will never forget!!


In the past, a sump dive has been conducted in Thornhill cave as well as a dye trace that confirmed that the water coming out of Big Spring Cave in the town of Big Spring, is hydrologically connected to Thornhill Cave.  We are going to visit the town and view the spring sometime in the future.

Big Spring Cave in Big Spring Kentucky.  NOT MY PHOTO

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