Here is the original Virtual Cave, devoted to the astounding variety of nature's handiwork found in solution caves, those dissolved out of solid rock by acidic waters. Most solution caves are found in carbonate rocks (limestone, dolomite, or marble) or gypsum. They may also occur in sandstones, since carbonates often form the "glue" that holds sandstone together. They can also occur in salt, which dissolves quickly.
Typically, caves are dissolved while they are below the water table. It is only after the cave is drained and exposed to air that the deposition of secondary mineral features or speleothems may begin. The pages below should provide a glimpse of the amazing variety of these features. Look all you want, but please don't touch, as these are fragile things formed over thousands of years. Enjoy them but leave them intact for the next visitor! The caver's motto is "Take nothing but pictures, cave softly, and leave no trace of your visit."
To see how these features look in an idealized cave, use our very cool Virtual Cave image map . You can navigate the site with the map or choose from the list of speleothems below. Some in the text list are not on the map, so check that for more.
KARST-landscapes associated with caves
LIFE IN CAVES-what lives down there?
SALT CAVES-caves dissolved from salt beds
World's largest known cave formations!
Aragonite & Frostwork
Check out my recently published (2018) book based on the Virtual Cave, called THE VIRTUAL CAVE: A PICTORIAL GUIDE TO THE WONDROUS WORLD OF CAVE FORMATIONS.
It contains pages devoted to all the 46 different types of formations shown here, but with more images to illustrate each. It has expanded sections devoted to karst and other cave types.
It has 176 full color pages with 580 images, and has a hard cover.
Click the image to see a larger version of the full cover.
Published by the National Speleological Society and available through their Bookstore. It costs $18 for NSS members and $20 for non-members.
Right now you're in the Solution Cave section of the Virtual Cave. Follow this link to our Home Page to connect to pages on other types of caves like Sea Caves, Erosional Caves & Glacier Caves, and Lava Tubes, in our extensive Virtual Lava Tube.