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How Were the Jenolan Caves Formed?

Jenolan Caves

The Jenolan Caves have long been revered as Australia’s best cave system and the most accessible natural caves reachable from Sydney. People of all ages make their way to the caves to see the 8 show caves on display, there’s truly an experience for everyone! The origins of the Jenolan Caves have long been a mystery and it wasn’t until 20 years ago that researchers discovered its true age; 340 million years old. What does this mean for the caves? It earns the title of the world’s oldest open cave system.

What is the Jenolan Caves made out of?

The Jenolan Caves are primarily made of ‘karst’, a landform that easily dissipates in fresh waters. The caves are limestone, where karst is usually found, meaning that the terrain of the Jenolan Caves is labyrinth-like, a prominent feature of limestone caves. The Jenolan Caves specifically are made from impounded karst meaning that the caves are made from water that surrounding rocks could not dissolve the water. Limestone caves are amongst the most complex cave systems in the world, so far there has been 400 caves discovered in the Jenolan Caves. The largest of the caves is the Lucas Cave which features a cathedral chamber that some people even opt to have their wedding at as a result of the beautiful setting.

Limestone is a sedimentary type of rock which usually forms in shallow waters. The Jenolan Caves are made of lime mud and have lots of fossils that are open for viewing to the public. A major feature of the caves are the stalactites that hang from the ceiling. These are formed by drops of water that evaporate before they leave the ceiling, when this happens the leftover calcium carbonate sticks to the ceiling and grows downwards. The stalactites usually start their life as what geologists call ‘straws’, which are miniature versions, thinner strips of rock that only turn into stalactites if they are blocked by impurities.

History of the Jenolan Caves

The Jenolan Caves are situtated on the land of the Burra Burra clan, part of the Gundugurra nation. The Gundugurra people were aware of the cave system for thousands of years, which they called Binooema, meaning dark caves. The first European explorers to first uncover the caves on record was a local pastoralist by the name of James Whalan. There is a myth that mentions the first European man to explore the caves was an outlaw named James McKeown who hid in the caves, nevertheless, Whalan and his brother Charles went on through the decades to discover more of the cave system.  The Lucas Cave, named after John Lucas who played a major role in protecting the integrity of the cave many years later was discovered in 1860 by Nicholas Irwin and George Whiting.

Check out our Jenolan Caves Tour today! or Visit Blue Mountains Tour Sydney for more information about our tours!

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