For over 50 years, generations of Boy Scouts, schools and church groups have enjoyed the overnight experience inside Cumberland Caverns. Several other caverns now offer similar programs for those looking for unique and memorable underground experience. These overnight field trips are not only educational but also provide an active and fun activity.
The typical overnight field trip will include three major activities. First is an educational walking tour of the cave. This tour is identical to the tours you would take on a daytime field trip. Second is an adventure tour of the cave with hard-hats and flashlights. The adventure tour will involve climbs, crawls, and tight squeezes. The third part is of course sleeping in the cave. Groups roll out their sleeping bags and sleep in the cool natural darkness that only a cave can offer.
Visiting a cave with your class is always a great learning experience. Cave tours offer a visual learning experience as students see the effects of water erosion, identify cave formations, and see the rock cycle in action. These school tours are often based on curriculum standards and standardized testing models to teach as well as entertain.
The educational side is only the beginning of the overnight experience in the cave. At Cumberland Caverns, after the group finishes their walking tour of the caverns, they put on their hardhats and grab their flashlights. Their guide leads them through a mile of what is commonly known as “the wild tour.” This path through the cave gives a wide variety of caving experiences such as rock climbing, hand and knees crawling, belly crawls through tights passages (some only 11” high).
The fun of this adventure is one great part of an overnight adventure. Groups will also find a bonus of self-esteem and self-confidence resulting from braving the cave. Each caver will have a real sense of achievement from completing the route.
Show caves that offer overnight adventures will have well proven routes for groups to explore. These routes are safe, well-traveled routes that the guide knows well. These routes are chosen to give a wide variety of caving experiences. Additionally, trained guides are available that will teach and lead groups. Besides the lessons of science and history, guides will teach safe caving practices and environmental conservation. Keeping cavers safe and preserving and protecting the cave itself is important to all show cave owners and operators.
Cumberland Caverns offers a large dry flat room in the cave to sleep. “We are capable of sleeping over 250 in the cave” says adventure manager Mary Isbell. “Each group is designated their own campsite where they sleep that night.”
The real unique experience of sleeping underground is one to remember a lifetime. The teachers and scout leaders that bring groups of children to the cave today are often the ones who enjoyed the experience themselves. Leaving the cave in the morning is a wonderful experience after a night of caving fun, seeing the morning sun after being under the earth for the night is exhilarating. Everyone leaves the cave with great knowledge and love for caves and a real sense of success.
Teddy B. Jones is the General Manager of Cumberland Caverns. For more information call 931-668-4396 or email [email protected].
Arkansas State University
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