Rákóczi Barlang

Rákóczi Cave - Esztramos Cave - Rákóczi Cave Nr. 1


Useful Information

Location: Bódvarákó, near Tornaszentandras.
At the border to the Slovak Republic, norteastern part of Hungary. In the Aggtelek National Park, in Esztramos hill. From Budapest M3 E71 toward Eger, exit 151 Miskolc SK, on M30 E79 to Miskolc, 306 then right on 26 towards Bànréve, at Kazincbarcika, turn right on 27 toward Edelény. Turn right to Bódvarákó, at the city limits turn left on gravel road.
(48.5203313, 20.7495965)
Open: Closed for renovation.
[2022]
Fee: Closed for renovation.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SpeleologyHypogene Caves SpeleothemCave Coral MineIron Mine MineLimestone Quarries and Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=650 m, VR=80 m, T=8-10 °C.
Guided tours: L=700 m, Lmine=400 m, Lcave=300 m, VR=70 m, D=1 h, MinAge=10, Max=10.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Szilágyi Zolt (2002): 120 Hours of Despair, Tina No 6/2002 February 2002 pp 32-33.
Address: Aggteleki Nemzeti Park Igazgatóság (Aggtelek National Park), H-3758 Jósvafõ, Tengerszem oldal 1, Tel: +36-48-350-006, Fax: +36-48-350-006. E-mail: contact
For information: Tourinform-Aggtelek, Baradla oldal 1, 3759 Aggtelek, Tel/Fax: +36-48-343-073.
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

1830 begin of iron mining.
1948 begin of limestone mining.
1952 huge cave discovered during iron mining, partly explored by miners.
1958 first cave map by István Venkovits.
1961 Nature Conservation Act states the automatic, unconditional protection of the country’s caves.
1964 first speleological exploration by the Vámőrség barlangkutató csoportja (Customs Guard cave exploration team) led by Gyula Szilvássy.
1995 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
2002 one of the largest rescue operations in Hungarian caving, rescuing cave diver Zsolti.
2022 cave closed due to technical problems.

Description

Rákóczi barlang (Rákóczi Cave) is one of those caves with numerous names. It is also called Rákóczi I.sz. barlang (Rákóczi 1st cave). Located inside Esztramos Hill it is also called Esztramos barlang (Esztramos Cave). It is located in the northernmost hill of the Rudabánya-Szalonnai Mountains, at the border of Cserehát and the Aggtelek Karst.

East of the small village Bódvarákó lies a hill made of Triassic limestone, but this limestone is crossed by a fracture zone. The cracks were full of thermal water which circulated in convection cells and transported all sorts of minerals. Here in the limestone it was cooled down and neutralized by the limestone and the minerals were deposited in the cracks, filling them. Such resources, called hydrothermal deposits, are very often polymetallic, as the water dissolves any metal, but in this case the source rocks were rich in iron. As a result there were veins of high grade iron ores in the limestone of this hill.

Estramos hill was once nearly 400 meters high, but quarrying destroyed the top 80 m of the mountain. The hill is today covered by abandoned mining structures, open cast iron mines on the surface, and there were tunnels built across the hill. But there are also caves in the limestone, and as they formed hypogene, below the groundwater level and with carbon dioxide from the ores, these are not classical river caves like nearby Baradla Cave. These are widened cracks, created by dissolution, which followed patches of rocks which were easier to dissolve. The result is a very complicated structure of shafts and widened cracks, there is almost no horizontal section.

The complicated chemistry of the water also caused the formation of extraordinary speleothems. While they are based on limestone and obviously contain iron oxide for colour, they are regular speleothems though. But the conditions were different from other caves in the area, and so the main speleothem is cave coral, not normal stalactites and stalagmites. Actually the walls of this cave are completely covered by this strange speleothem, it's the main character of the cave.

The cave tour starts at the foot of the hill, a single lane road leads into an abandoned mine plant. One of the building is now used as a ticket office, and there is ample space for parking. To reach the cave its necessary to walk a single lane road uphill, and you can see more abandoned mining structures. Finally, a mine tunnel is reache halfway up the hill. Inside the tunnel is like any abandoned mine tunnel, rusty railroad tracks and puddles of mud on the floor. There are electric lamps but with some distance, a personal lamp is useful. This tunnel alone requires good walking shoes and some surefootedness. This cave is definitely not for the elderly or disabled. And it gets worse, when the cave is reached. This cave is mostly vertical, so there is almost no horizontal section in the trail, you are climbing stairs all the time. The cave is steep, narrow, and beautiful. All walls are covered by an abundance of cave corals in extraordinary beauty. Cave corals are not rare, but this quality exists only a few times on earth. At the deepest point of the cave is a cave lake, which is quite exceptional with its green colour. And then you return the way you went in.

We strongly recommend wearing clothes which might get dirty, bring closthed to change and a towel. Bring your own helmet with a good headlamp if possible. But most important, wear good watertight walking shoes, trekking shoes or gumboots. The mine is dirty, the cave is often narrow, and even the iron railings are old and rusty.

The miners followed the ore, and during their work they discovered numerous caves. Caves were mostly irrelevant for the miners, because there was no ore inside, but they were potential space to throw garbage in. Especially if there was any danger for the mining by causing instabilities in the rock. There are more than 50 caves known in the hill, but from the 23 caves discovered on the upper level, 18 have been destroyed without a trace. The surrounding limestone was mined, the upper 80 m of the hill were completely removed. But the lower caves were only slightly better off, many of them filled in with slack.

But when this cave was discovered even the miners were impressed. The discovery spread, and the cave was visited by numerous miners who reached the first lake. And due to the newly created Nature Conservation Act, the cave was automatically under nature protection, its desctruction had become illegal. Other such caves were discovered and today three similar caves are known, all highly protected. And this finally explains one of the names. When the second cave was discovered the miners named it simply Rákóczi Cave No. 2, and so this cave became Rákóczi Cave No. 1.

The cave was discovered in the 1960s, a time when iron ore was still of great importance. But the mining already declined, mostly because the ores wer almost depleted. When the cave was discovered, the Vámőrség barlangkutató csoportja (Customs Guard cave exploration team) led by Gyula Szilvássy explored the cave. The members of this small caving group were all members of the border patrol, caving was obviously a local pastime. On there first exploration they discovered all the passages which are today show cave, down to the cave lake. On the second trip they returned with an inflatable boat and continued their exploration on the other side of the water. The result is that the cave consists of two vertical, cleft-like chambers. But there was also the cave lake, and since cave divers started to explore it, a depth of 44 m was reached.

The cave was a low-key side operation of the Akktelek Natural Park for decades. It was a true highlight, a secret which was handed from those who had seen it, only to their closest friends. It was not advertised, because with a maximum of 10 persons per tour and one tour per hour due to the narrowness, the numer of visitors was strictly limited. The iron staircases and railings were rusting away, some parts were already quite rickety. Finally, the decomposition became too much and the cave was closed for safety reasons. At the moment it is unclear if and how the cave will be renovated. It is obviously not a profitable venue, but this is actually the most interesting and most beautiful cave at Aggtelek, and it would be shame if it was closed forever.

Rákóczi barlang (Rákóczi Cave) is located in the spur of Esztramos Hill which is part of the Szalonna Karst, this is about 20 km east of Jósvafo in north eastern Hungary, in the village of Bódvarákó, near the town of Tornaszentandras. Here, iron mining operations opened up dozens of caves and a few years ago this cave was incorporated into the Aggtelek National Park and was renamed Rákóczi Cave.

Rákóczi Cave contains peculiar dissolution pockets, rock pendants and avens ending in spherical niches. This demonstrates that this cave has been dissolved below the karst water table and that warm waters ascending here in the past have also dissolved part of the speleothems. Today, most of the cave is located well above the water table but Rákóczi Cave still has considerable portions underwater. The mineralisation is characteristic of a hydrothermal cave most of the formations are coralloids, resembling grapes or popcorn. Many scalenohedral calcite crystals, some aragonite crystals and moonmilk abound. One broken speleothem shows alternating bands of calcite and aragonite. The cave also contains deep pools of water which are extremely clear with a slightly greenish colour.

The present entrance is an old mine adit which leads to a series of chambers developed along a major fault. There is almost as much vertical development as horizontal development. The Park Service has installed steel stairs and walkways. Electrical lighting is in place but not connected.

Recently, this cave was the scene of a successful 120-hour rescue of a cave diver.


Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.