Madison Originals Magazine Madison Originals Magazine February 2012 - Page 38

38 | madison originals magazineoriginal landmark You walk through a door into another world, one which under normal circumstances would be pitch black— so dark you cannot even see your hand as you hold it in front of your face. But today, lights illuminate a cavern of color and fascinating natural formations. You have entered Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. In 1828, Ebenezer Brigham settled the land on the east mound of Blue Mounds in search of lead. He became a successful lead miner, and his home served as a trading post, stagecoach stop, an inn, and a post ofce. But he never anticipated the natural wonder that lay below his home. In 1939, a quarry blast revealed a 20-foot-high cavern with numerous rooms and stunning mineral formations.Those present witnessed the discovery of a National Natural Landmark—sites which the Secretary of the Interior and the National Park Service determine possess signicant cultural, natural, or scientic qualities. Cave of the Mounds was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1988, one of eighteen in Wisconsin. So how did Cave of the Mounds form? Consider this analogy: take a pumpkin, scrape out the insides, and then carve an intricate and elaborate design in the surface. What takes minutes for you and I, took about a million and a half years for Cave of the Mounds. The initial hollowing out phase occurred when acidic water lled all the space in the rock, including a crack in the limestone. The cave was shaped by the water owing through the crack and cavities, and dissolving the surrounding limestone.When the water table dropped, the second phase of the cave’s formation began. With the main compartments lled with air, water continues to this day to seep through the surface into the cave carrying with it calcium carbonate dissolved from the surrounding limestone. Different minerals mixed in add the variety of colors. This becomes the building material for the great variety of surface features within the cave, including stalactites and stalagmites.In 1940, the cave was ofcially opened to visitors using walkways and stairs. Today your experience is enhanced by extended underground walkways, dramatic lighting, and knowledgeable tour guides. With only one real narrow passageway, the cave is accessible for most people and children accompanied by an adult. Visitors must be able to negotiate stairs.The tour and introductory video take about an hour. On the tour, you will follow paved paths and stairways that wind through the main cavern. Water drips everywhere, which means that the creative process inside the cave never CAVE OF THE MOUNDS By Liz WesselBe a Badger, Get Underground