Jul 17

Lava river cave

Category: Arizona

I don’t know why it’s called government cave on some maps, but most people call it lava river or lava tube cave.  It’s in the coconino national forest northwest of Flagstaff, only about 30 minutes away from the city.  You can see the USFS’ web site for more info.  The tunnel starts small with very rough going, but eventually becomes the size of a subway tunnel.  If you look carefully and use a good flashlight, there are subtle colors in the rock walls.  The floor is very much solid rock and looks like what it is – a frozen liquid.  It’s clear that it came out of the earth with the consistency of oatmeal and then froze.  Chunks of rock fell from the ceiling while the stone was a slurry and are now embedded in it like a twig in lake ice.

I’ve been in a few lava tubes in Hawaii, and had supposed that they would be the largest.  This tube is much larger than the ones I’ve seen, and very long.  It is a good bit of exercise to go to the end and back.  One nice thing about this tube – it’s a cave you can’t get lost in.  There is only one branch and it meets the main chamber again.  The only thing that could go wrong is that you definitely could break a leg or get a bad abrasion in there – rocks are sharp, oddly shaped and wet near the entrance.  And it’s really cold down there – it’s almost freezing all the time, even when it’s 90 out.  This cave is not tamed in any way – no lights, paved paths or gift shop.  Just a hole in the ground in the woods.

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3 comments

3 Comments so far

  1. Seamus July 25th, 2009 8:41 AM

    Wow! fantastic!!

  2. S GERHARD March 5th, 2013 10:23 PM

    Lucky you. Visited Flagstaff 3 years ago. My woman hated Az. But I hiked to Red mountain and that made the whole trip! Better than the Pet Forest. Wanted to go to the LR cave but ran out of time. Darn! Thanks for the pics.

  3. Dan Shewmaker April 25th, 2014 2:03 PM

    Great photos of the Lava Tubes in Flagstaff! I work for the Arizona Office of Tourism, would it be possible for us to use one of your photos to promote the Lava Tubes?

    Thanks,
    Dan

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