Cody Caves – One of B.C.s Best-Known Cave Systems

Cavers Enter Cody Cave Mouth

Photo: Cavers descend into Cody Caves in B.C.'s West Kootenay region.
Photo: Cavers descend into Cody Caves in B.C.'s West Kootenay region. | Source

Cody Caves Part of First Subterranean Park

Cody Caves is considered one of the best-known cave systems in British Columbia. Tucked away in the Selkirk Mountains on the west side of Kootenay Lake, the caverns are part of Cody Caves Provincial Park, which bears the distinction of being the first subterranean park in B.C.

The caves were likely visited by aboriginal inhabitants but were named after Henry Cody, a prospector who came to the West Kootenays in the 1890s looking for silver. While exploring the mountain slopes above the Ainsworth area, Cody discovered the caves. Word spread and curiosity about the caverns grew, attracting locals and people from far away. Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada, was one of the early visitors to the site in 1908.

How the Caves Formed

Cody Caves started forming millions of years ago, when a limestone bed was thrust upwards. Water containing carbon dioxide met up with the limestone, producing carbonic acid. Over centuries, the limestone dissolved, contributing to the formation of subterranean tunnels, caverns and galleries. The action of water and erosion continues today; an underground stream flows through the cave system.

Approximately 800 meters of explorable passages wind their way through the caves, marked by impressive calcite formations that have been growing about one cubic centimeter per century. Formations include stalagmites and stalactites, soda straws and waterfalls/draperies/bacon strips, flowstone and rimstone dams (gours), and some of the best boxwork specimens in the world.

Impressive Cave Formations in Cody Cave

Photo: Impressive Calcite Formations Await Cavers who explore Cody Caves.
Photo: Impressive Calcite Formations Await Cavers who explore Cody Caves. | Source

Ancient calcite formations and a network of limestone tunnels make Cody Caves one the best caving sites in the B.C. back country.

Protecting Cody's Fragile Cave System

The formations are very fragile and easily compromised.

“You can’t really visit a cave park on your own without doing significant damage," says Kevin Stanway, former Cody Caves Provincial Park Operator.

Efforts have been initiated to protect the integrity of the cave system for future generations. Cody Caves is now gated and exploration is only possible by means of guided tours, which safeguard spelunkers/cavers and reduce impact to the caves' interior.

Adventourous Caver Gets Down and Dirty in Cody Caves

Photo: Caver Explores Subterranean Passages in the Cody Cave system.
Photo: Caver Explores Subterranean Passages in the Cody Cave system. | Source

Sources:

  1. "Cody Caves Provincial Park," Ministry of Environment/Gov. of B.C./B.C. Parks/Cody Caves, accessed Sept. 22/11
  2. "Cody Caves Park Operator May be Forced to Shut Down," The Valley Voice, Vol. 19. #13, June 2010, accessed Sept.22/11
  3. West Kootenay Sportsman's Guide, 1960, p.36, BCNIS Query Results, accessed Sept. 22/11

Cody Cave Tours & Access

  • Over the years, different tours have been available to the public, ranging from one-hour tours to longer expeditions, suitable for those wanting to venture deeper into the cave system. According to a 2011 article written by Greg Nesteroff and entitled Cody Caves Conundrum Continues that appeared in the Nelson Star, access to the caves has been put on hold until a new tour operator can be found.
  • Cody Caves is located just off of Highway 31. Three kilometers north of Ainsworth, a narrow access road that's passable in summer months and marked with directional arrows climbs to the parking area. A trail leads to the caves' entrance.

Getting to Cody Caves

A markerCody Caves -
Cody Caves Provincial Park, 41333 Victoria Street, North British Columbia, BC V1L 4K3, Canada
[get directions]

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One of British Columbia's Premiere Cave Systems

Cody Caves is a network of limestone tunnels and chambers thought to be some of the biggest subterranean caverns in Canada.

© 2013 Athlyn Green

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Comments 2 comments

Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green 8 months ago from West Kootenays Author

Thank you. This is a unique corner of B.C. and the West Kootenays.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

If I'm ever back in British Columbia (which I hope to be someday), I will have to check this out! Thanks for the detailed information.

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