Uracher Tropfsteinhöhle


Useful Information

Location: Behind the Kunstmühle Künkele and the Baumwollspinnerei G. & A. Leuze, Gewann „Felsenwiesen“ at the Grüner Weg. (Kat-Nr. 7522/4)
Open: Closed due to flooding. [2019]
Fee: Closed due to flooding. [2019]
Classification: Speleologytufa cave, Speleologyprimary cave,
Light: electric
Dimension: L=50m, W=5m, A=496m NN.
Guided tours: Closed due to flooding. [2019]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: not accessible because of staircase
Bibliography: Holger Dahlhelm (1982): Untersuchungen zur Speläogenese in Kalktuffen an Beispielen aus Südwestdeutschland, Beiträge zur Höhlen und Karstkunde in Südwestdeutschland 24, Stuttgart, 1982.
Julius Wais (1902): Tropfsteinhöhle bei Urach, Albvereinsblätter 14/2(1902) 58
Address:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1895 the unmarried miller Heinrich Beck from Seeburg buys the property of the deceased baker Philipp Niethammer from Urach and becomes stonecutter and quarry owner.
1896 Heinrich Beck discovers the cave in his quarry.
1900 opened to the public.
1964 cave flooded at spring flood.

Description

The Uracher Tropfsteinhöhle is currently still a mystery. It is hardly known to anyone and not accessible because it is under water. And yet it was once a show cave, some older fellow citizens still remember a visit. But let's start at the beginning.

After the death of the baker Philipp Niethammer from Urach in 1895 his heirs sold the property in the "Felsenwiesen" at the "Grüner Weg", near the Kunstmühle Künkele. The buyer was the unmarried miller Heinrich Beck from Seeburg. He opened a quarry in which he mined the soft limestone tufa, a stone which was very popular for stables, but also for public buildings such as town halls and schools. Only one year later he discovered an opening during the quarrying of tufa. This is quite common, a normal thing with tufa, which has a lot of small cavities However, this special discovery soon turned out to be quite unusual. The gap was seven meters deep and so he needed a long ladder and a lantern to explore it, certainly an extraordinary thing at that time. Most of today's show caves did not exist yet, but the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle had been discovered the year before and described in the newspaper. Also the Rulaman, a historic novel which is set in the Schillerhöhle only one kilometre away, had already been published, and Hauff's Lichtenstein had already been published 70 years before. And the first German cave club had been founded six years earlier in nearby Gutenberg. So we can assume that he had already heard something about caves.

After descending into the cave, he quickly realized that it was unusually large, 25m long, five to six meters wide and just as high! But it had two even bigger peculiarities: huge stalactites hung down from the ceiling and a small, clear stream flowed through the entire cave. It appeared at one end from a small hole and disappeared at the other end just as mysteriously and as unspectacularly. At first Beck did not tell anyone about his discovery, but explored his cave in peace and quiet. He had the foresight and entrepreneurial spirit to develop it with his own work as a show cave. He cut a comfortable entrance into the soft tufa from the tufa quarry, laid a path through the cave and built footbridges with stable railings and a bridge over the stream.

When he finally made it publicly known in 1900, it was called Tropfsteinhöhle Beck am Grünen Weg. However, he himself called it Dripstone Cave at the Kunstmühle, as can be seen from an advertisement in the newspaper Ermstalbote in 1901. The owner himself guided visitors through his cave and charged an entrance fee of 30 pfennigs for individuals and 20 pfennigs for groups. There were no opening hours, when visitors came, a guided tour was made.

The cave became well known, especially after it was visited by Julius Wais, the author of the most famous guide to the Swabian Jura. He included them in his guide in 1912, but had previously published an article in the monthly journal Blätter des Schwäbischen Albvereins. Sentences like "which is distinguished by the beauty and diversity of its structures" were surely a good advertisement for the cave. Wais was in fantasy formations, probably a typical appearance for this time.

"A Gothic church spire, finely structured and openworked, appears to be deceptively deceptive. This magic hall is animated by a dearest baby, a dwarf, in former times probably also by a knight, who left his armour behind. Dreamily an owl sits on a branch, while over there two elephants curiously stick their trunks in."
Julius Wais, Albführer, 1912

The cave guide Beck adapted them and impressed the adults and the schoolchildren with the imaginative interpretations of the stalactite formations. In the 1912 edition of his Albführer Julius Wais described the Urach dripstone cave as "the most beautiful and peculiar tufa cave of the Swabian Jura". Naturally the owner of the cave quoted such pithy words gladly in its advertisements. Thus the cave was visited by locals, by Urach spa guests, by school classes and by members of the Schwäbischer Albverein (Alb club). It was not nationally known, maybe because it was already closed before the blossoming of weekend tourism in the 1960s.

After the death of the discoverer his son-in-law Johannes Gaßner took over quarry and cave. Probably to increase the number of visitors he visited the cave with the editor Dr. Rudolf Eberling, who published a report about the cave afterwards.

"From the "Grüner Weg" you climb a narrow path to the bottom of the valley. The entrance resembles that to a mine gallery, through which you enter the first room, which is formed like a dome. We stand on a wide footbridge. The voice becomes dull. The petrified walls seem to absorb every sound. Below us the water gurgles. We stand in the cave at the same time at a spring which gives plenty of water. The water disappears immediately and continues underground. At the Kunstmühle Künkele does it reappear. The stones hang in wide drops above us and on the walls of the cupola room. On the right side to the back we discover completely petrified tree trunks. Under low hanging stones we reach the second part of the cave. Here, too, we are standing in a dome-like room, the height and sides of which have stalagmites of rich form and shape."
Editor Dr. Rudolf Eberling, 1957

The end of the show cave came unexpectedly with a local natural disaster. In February 1964 meltwater flooded the drinking water supply system for the Georgiisiedlung and the cotton mill, the old tufa quarry and the stalactite cave. After the quarry and the drinking water supply had been drained, the water in the cave no longer flowed off. The natural outflow to the Erms was probably blocked by mud and stones which were washed in by the flood. And so it has stayed until today, the unanimous opinion was so far that the expected costs to open the drain again would be very high. The attempts of the Bad Uracher Verschönerungsverein have failed because of this reason. However, the biologist Dr. Albrecht Gorthner from Metzingen is currently trying to clear the drain and has already achieved initial successes. Should he succeed, the cave could soon be reopened as a show cave.

During the last interglacial large quantities of meltwater flowed through the Erms and Seeburg valleys south of Urach. These large quantities of water in combination with higher temperatures dissolved a large amount of limestone on their way through the karst of the Swabian Jura. They led to a growth spurt in the phreatic and semiphreatic caves, at the same time there was a growth spurt in the sinter formations in the caves. The springs and rivers also had large quantities of calcareous water. As is still the case today at the nearby Urach waterfall, calcareous tufa formed in the form of large lake-like sinter basins. A comparable situation prevails today at the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. The deposition of calcareous tufa formed large steps, further deposition at the edge led to arching and finally to the inclusion of cave passages. This is such a cave passage. It is located inside a 25m thick calcareous tufa bar.