Cold air rushing out of a limestone sinkhole atop a big hill west of Luray, Virginia, blew out a candle held by Andrew Campbell, the town tinsmith, on the morning of August 13, 1878. So began the discovery of Luray Caverns.
Campbell, three other men, and his 13-year-old nephew, Quint, were exploring the area, looking for a cave. With the help of local photographer Benton Stebbins, the men dug away loose rocks for four hours before, candle in hand, Campbell and Quint slid down a rope into the cave. They could scarcely believe what they saw. The party had discovered the largest series of caverns in the East, an eerie world of stalactites and stalagmites seen by the light of a candle.
Visitors by the millions have made Luray Caverns the most popular caverns in Eastern America. Guided tours along well-lighted, paved walkways lead visitors through cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings 10-stories high, towering stone formations, and natural wonders at every turn.
From the Smithsonian report of July 1880 – “there is nothing more beautiful in the cave than these scarves, shawls, lambrequins of translucent calcite, some white as snow, falling in graceful folds, fringed with a thousand patterns, and so thin that a candle held behind one of them reveals all the structure within.”
Enormous chambers are filled with towering stone columns, shimmering draperies and crystal-clear pools. The National Park Service and the Department of Interior designated Luray Caverns a Registered Natural Landmark. The announcement proclaimed this site possesses exceptional value as an illustration of the Nation's natural heritage and contributes to a better understanding of man's environment.
All formations in the caverns are calcite, a crystalline form of limestone. Calcite in its purest form is naturally white. Titania's Veil is a pristine example of a calcite formation in its finest purity.
Dominating Giant’s Hall at a height of 47 feet, this column is the tallest and one of the most spectacular formations in the caverns. The Double Column is a classic example of the two basic cave formations the stalactite and stalagmite coming together as one massive wonder of nature.