Would you like to go spelunking? Do you know what it is? Spelunking is the exploration of caves as a hobby, including measuring and mapping caves and reporting on the plants or other things that grow in them.
The DeSoto Caverns in north central Alabama are a great place to go spelunking. They have one of the most awe-inspiring collections of stalagmites and stalactites found in the United States. A stalagmite is a cone-shaped mineral deposit that forms upward; a stalactite forms downward.
The caves have a long history. The earliest inhabitant was Archaic man (Archaic Period, 8,000 to 1,000 B.C.), a cave-dweller who lived on small game, fish and nuts. Many centuries later, in 1796, Benjamin Hawkins, a U.S. agent appointed by George Washington, wrote about the magnificent beauty of the DeSoto Caverns in a report, making it the first officially reported cave in the United States. During the Civil War, the DeSoto Caverns became a site for mining saltpeter, used in making gunpowder for the Confederate Army.
In 1965, the caverns were officially opened to the public. With high-power electric lights the caverns' colorful beauty could be fully appreciated. Today, DeSoto Caverns hosts several major weekend festivals each year.