Black Chasm

Black Chasm Cavern


Useful Information

Location: 15701 Pioneer-Volcano Road, Volcano, CA.
From Sacramento Highway 16 east, right ono Highway 49 south, left on Ridge Road until it ends in Pine Grove, turn left on 88. From Stockton Highway 88 east into Pine Grove. From Pine Grove 2 km towards Pioneer, left on Pine Grove-Volcano Road 5 km, right on Pioneer-Volcano Road 800 m.
From Tahoe Highway 89 West over Luther Pass, turn right on Highway 88 at Pickett's Junction, Carson Pass to Pioneer, turn right to Volcano 5km, on the left.
(38.432405, -120.626225)
Open: NOV to MAY Wed-Sun 10-16.
JUN to mid-SEP daily 9-18.
Mid-SEP to DEC daily 10-17.
Arrive 30 minutes before the start of your tour.
Closed Thanksgiving Day.
[2022]
Fee: Adults USD 19, Children (5-12) USD 10.50, Children (0-4) free.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: A=686 m asl, T=14° C.
Guided tours: D=50 min, VR=34 m, Max=20.
Miners Trail: self guided.
Photography: allowed, camera attachments such as extra lenses or tripods/selfie sticks not allowed.
Accessibility: not wheelchair accessible
Bibliography:  
Address: Cave and Mine Adventures, 15701 Pioneer Volcano Road, Volcano, CA 95689, Tel: +1-209-736-2708, Tel: +1-866-762-2837. E-mail:
Reservations, Tel: 888-488-1960.
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

1854 first documented exploration by a group of explorers.
1976 declared a National Natural Landmark.
1996 developed as a show cave with the construction of environmentally friendly steps and walkways.

Description

photography
Black Chasm, California, U.S.A.. Public Domain.

The Black Chasm is famous for huge calcite crystals called Speleothemdogtooth spars. It also has Speleothemhelictites. and other rare speleothems, which make the cave visit very impressive. This is the youngest of several show caves in area.

The tour descends about 31 m on steep concrete stairs to the Main Hall. The cave is a vertical cave, so there are no horizontal passages but a series of chambers, one above the other, connected by stairs. That's the reason why the space is restricted and not more than 20 visitors are allowed per group. The upper three chambers have the most spectacular formations. The Main Hall has a beautiful blue lake at the ground of a 25 m deep shaft. This huge chamber is full of speleothems like stalactites, stalagmites, draperies and columns. But the highlight is the Landmark Room with its spectacular arrays of helictites.

There are numerous restriction for the cave, but in general it's simply not allowed to bring any kind of loose objects like water bottles, bags or strollers. The danger that something falls down and destroys the fragile speleothems is too big. The only exception is a camera, but without extra lenses, tripod, or selfie sticks. Walking sticks are also not allowed, but there are handrails throughout the cave. If you are not able to walk without a stick you should definitely reconsider visiting the cave, And of course the cave is far from being wheelchair accessible.

Most likely the cave was known by the local Miwok people who lived in this area long before the gold rush. But the official discovery was in 1854 when a group of gold miners first entered the cave and discovered a bright blue lake and millions of sparkling crystals that seemed to twist from the cavern walls in every direction. In the early days there were now and then guided tours into a small portion of the cave. At the end of the gold rush, Black Chasm was abandoned and largely forgotten. Speleologists continued to explore the chasm and the local members of the National Speleological Society recommended the cave for protection. Finally, Black Chasm was recognized by the federal government for the abundance of the unusual and rare speleothems and declared a National Natural Landmark in 1976. The cave is a rather young show cave, as it was finally developed as a show cave with the construction of environmentally friendly steps and walkways in 1996. This is quite fortunate as the speleothems were never damaged by cave visitors.

When we last reviewed the site in [2004] their website stated that they planned to open a second tour, the Rapunzel Tour. It will lead down to the cave lake which is 25 m deeper on a staircase from the Colossal Room. The tour was named after Rapunzel's Hair, a group of impressive, twined rope-like roots from an oak tree far above at the surface. However, the works have never started and as far as we know the plan was cancelled.

Beneath the underground tour there is a trail on the surface called the Miners Trail. During the Gold Rush, Hydraulic mining was used extensively and millions of tons of top-soil were washed away into Sutter Creek and beyond. The landscape is dominated by convoluted marble monoliths uncovered by the water. But due to the ecologically fragile nature of the area the trail is closed several times throughout the year. If you plan to walk the trail you should talk to the naturalist at the visitor center for directions.