Hundreds of feet underneath Lewisburg, West Virginia, over a mile of interconnected passages, filled with stalactites and stalagmites, wind through a limestone cave. This otherworldly underground site is known as Lost World Caverns.
For many years, the only entrance to the cave was a deep hole, which local farmers once used as a dumping ground for dead livestock and other waste. It turned out that the hole was a deep vertical shaft—around 120 feet long—that led into a massive chamber within the expansive cave system. The vaulted chamber measures approximately 1,000 feet long, 300 feet wide, and 120 feet high.
Much of southern West Virginia sits on a karst plateau. As water moves through this limestone table, it carves intricate passageways marked by dripping rock formations. In the 1960s, a survey of the cave charted over a mile of interconnected passageways. They documented life in the cave system as well—in 1967, the remains of a prehistoric cave bear were unearthed.
In the early 1970s, a portion of the cave was opened to visitors. A walking entrance was dug out, walkways were installed, and years’ worth of trash was removed. The temperature inside the cavern is a constant 52 degrees Fahrenheit and the cave contains stalagmites up to 80 feet tall. One of the more well-known stalactite formations, the Snowy Chandelier, weighs around 30 tons.
Lost World Caverns is also home to a disappearing stream. You can hear the stream throughout the cave system, but you cannot see where it goes. The stream emerges some eight miles from the caverns.
Living in this odd ecosystem are cave crickets and salamanders. The cave crickets are easy to spot throughout you’re tour but the salamanders not so much. To see some salamander activity you’ll want to be one of the first visitors in the morning.
Know Before You Go
Call ahead to schedule an appointment. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and a light jacket. Lost World Caverns has two different types of tours. The first is self-guided and can take about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. The second set of tours called the Wild Cave Tours, is an adventurous journey that takes about 4 hours.