Twice my husband and I have had a chance to vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains. One of the things I begged him to do with me was visit one of the local caves. As a little girl in Ohio I’d gotten to visit a cave and the memory stuck. Now I had a chance to share the wonder with my new family.
We went to visit a cave close to where we stayed, called Tuckaleechee Caverns. It had every kind of formation I had hoped to see including not only enormous stalactites and stalagmites, but ribbons, huge rooms, and a stream with a waterfall at the beginning.
But something was sad about everything we saw. All the formations were a uniform, rusty color.
I assumed this was just the way things were since red dirt is so common in that part of the world. It wasn’t until we came back some years later (no coaxing needed this time) that I learned that wasn’t the real reason.
There is a small stalagmite right next to the trail that had been broken off or rubbed so much already that they let you touch it. The sides of the narrow cone were red like the rest, but the top, showing the core, was translucent white.
What? The formations weren’t the same color all the way through?
Our guide told us that in the late 1800s, the mountain above the cavern had been clear cut: all the trees had been dragged off the whole mountainside. Then the rains came.
The erosion and flooding from the water just rolling down the bare mountain was horrible. It filled the whole cavern to the brim with muddy water. Every feature inside was stained the same dull red. Any flat, undisturbed place has small stones and dirt clods still resting as silent markers of that event. I’m sure it would be far too harmful to power wash the whole place, but that’s what it would take to clean the place up.
Now, I‘ve been thinking about cave formation in general. What did it take in order to get a huge amount of water, big enough to fill the whole cavern to the top? Well, in recorded history, it took a rainstorm (in a notoriously wet area) on a mountain without trees.
Was there ever such a time in the past when many places would have had similar conditions causing underground flooding?
Yes, there was! When the “fountains of the great deep” were broken up (Genesis 7:11), there was more than just hot water spewing from the earth. There were also volcanoes. The World-Wide Flood stripped every tree on earth away.
Then came the upheaval of the new continents. Mountains folded and lifted. More volcanoes erupted. The water drained, but it would take some time for enough trees and other plants to get a good hold on the soil to slow erosion.
Next came the storms. The Institute for Creation Research has done a lot of study about the possibility of hyper-canes and other massive storms pummeling the planet for hundreds of years after the Flood ended. We can see from the volcanic rocks that eruptions continued to be common; changing the climate for some time after the Flood year ended.
All of that worked together in a way we thankfully only rarely see in today’s world. The wonder is that some of what was formed at that time is so beautiful we pay good money to get a close and careful look at it!
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also put eternity in people’s hearts, but we can never discover the work God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11