ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Gap Cave in Cumberland Gap National Park

Updated on December 20, 2018
Liz Hardin profile image

Liz earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Veterinary Medical Technology from Lincoln Memorial University In Harrogate, TN.

Location and Formation

The Gap Cave nestled within Cumberland Gap National Park (which extends across the Tri-County area in northeastern Tennessee, southeastern Kentucky, and southwestern Virginia) is a karst cave found in a 500-foot thick layer of limestone known as the Newman foundation, and is topped by the Pennington and Lee sandstone formations. Formally known as Cudjo's Cave, it is located just below the Pinnacle Overlook in Lee County, Virginia, which borders the tiny mountain town of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. This cave system was formed as the result of chemical weathering, as rainwater carrying carbonic acid seeped into cracks in the limestone and dissolved the limestone, forming openings over time. Eventually, rivers and creeks were able to flow through these openings, creating physical weathering of the limestone. Today, the Gap Creek still flows through the lowest level of the cave.

Some of the formations inside the Gap Cave.
Some of the formations inside the Gap Cave. | Source

This cave system was formed as the result of chemical weathering, as rainwater carrying carbonic acid seeped into cracks in the limestone and dissolved the limestone, forming openings over time.

Millions of Years Old- And Still Forming!

Gap Cave is estimated to be 3-5 million years old, and is still forming. About 18 miles of cavern has been explored so far. There are several layers in this cave, five of which have been explored, which are typical of karst caves and provide evidence of the various levels at which water used to flow through the cave as it was being formed. The highest level is the oldest, with the lowest being the youngest as water gradually carved downward. Breakdown rooms in the cave can be discerned by the presence of large angular rocks on the floor, unshaped by flowing water.

There are several layers in this cave, five of which have been explored, which are typical of karst caves and provide evidence of the various levels at which water used to flow through the cave as it was being formed.

Formations and Wildlife

Gap Cave is full of formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, pillars, columns, flowstones, cave ribbons, and soda straws. One of the most famous formations in the cave is the Pillar of Hercules, a 65 foot tall stalagmite! Most formations in the cave are either black or ivory white, indicating the presence of manganese and calcite during the formation process. The cave is also home to a diverse collection of creatures such as cave flies, cave crickets, cave salamanders, bats, crayfish, amphipods, and other invertebrate species.

A postcard of the Pillar of Hercules within the Gap Cave (previously known as Cudjo's Cave).
A postcard of the Pillar of Hercules within the Gap Cave (previously known as Cudjo's Cave). | Source

Most formations in the cave are either black or ivory white, indicating the presence of manganese and calcite during the formation process.

Visitation

Guided tours of the Gap Cave are available. Guided by park rangers, the 2 hour tour leads you along the base of the mountain and into the cave to see features such as stalagmites and flowstone cascades. There is even the occasional glimpse of a bat. The moderately strenuous, 1.5 mile tour explores four levels of the cave and has 183 steps. The tour entails a 1 mile hike along the historic Wilderness Road. If you are ever in the Cumberland Gap area, call the park's visitor center and reserve a spot on a tour of this amazing treasure tucked away in the mountains!

A map of the Cumberland Gap area, with the Gap Cave located near the center.
A map of the Cumberland Gap area, with the Gap Cave located near the center. | Source
  • Notes from Geology course at Lincoln Memorial University.
  • U.S. National Park Service https://www.nps.gov/cuga/planyourvisit/guidedtours.htm

© 2018 Liz Hardin

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)