Grand Canyon Caverns

Dinosaur Caverns - Yampai Caverns

Useful Information

Image: The path with some visitors. The walls show, why this cave is called a dry cave.
Location: Coconino County. Off Hwy. 66, 38km west of Seligman, between Williams and Kingman. (topographic quadrangle: Grand Canyon Caverns, 353107N 1131305W)
Open: Labor Day to 15-JUN daily 10-16.
16-JUN to Labor Day daily 8-18.
Tours every half hour. Closed on 25-DEC.
Fee: Adults USD 12.95, Children (4-12) USD 9.95. AAA and AARP discounts [2006]
Classification: ExplainKarst cave. Mississippian limestones.
Light: electric
Dimension: T=13°C
Guided tours: D=45min, L=1,200m.
Address: Grand Canyon Caverns, PO Box 180, Peach Springs, AZ 86434-0180, Tel. +1-602-422-3223 and +1-602-422-3224. E-mail: contact
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.


1917 two members of the Hualapai Indian tribe died and were buried in the cave entrance.
1927 discovered by Walter Peck, a woodcutter for the Santa Fe Railroad. He named the cave Yampai Caverns.
1936 a wooden staircase at the cavern entrance constructed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp).
1957 wooden swinging bridge added to allow access to the Chapel of Ages.
1957 renamed Dinosaur Caverns.
1962 elevator built.
1962 renamed Grand Canyon Caverns.


Image: a mumified bobcat, about 150 years old.

Grand Canyon Caverns began forming 300 million years ago. The active phase of the cave was, when the nearby Grand Canyon had the same depth. The Colorado river is the sink of the groundwater, so the water table has about the same depth, slightly ascending with the distance. Today this depth is about 1,600m (1 mile) below ground.

As the climate is semi-arid (dry) today and groundwater is deep below, there is absolutely no water in the Grand Canyon Cavern. It is extremely dry and thus definitly inactive, neither the cave nor the speleothemes are growing. The only action that may occur (very rare) is a heavy rain outside, that reaches the cave. Because of the semi-arid climate this happens very seldom, and the effect lasts only for a limited time.

The image on the left shows how dry this cave is. All animals that enter the cave by accident and die in this cave get mummified. This mummified bobcat is about 150 years old.

The cave was first known to the indegneous Hualapai Indians. Once during a heavy storm in 1917 two brothers died from flu nearby. Their companions were not able to dig graves in the frozen ground, and they did not want to bring the bodies back to the tribe, becaused they feared spreading the flu to the whole tribe. They buried the two dead inside the entrance of Grand Canyon Caverns, in a shaft they thought was 17m deep. As a fact the floor of this shaft was a huge rock, which blocked the connection to the cave below. They never again visited the cave, as they believd it to be a sacred place because of the burial.

Image: A very nice speleothem is the mineral called snowballs. It is just calcite.

The cave was discovered by Walter Peck in 1927. He was on the his way to a poker game, and there he told the others about his discovery. The next day, he and some friends brought ropes and lanterns with them to explore the cave. One of the cowboys was lowered with a rope around his waist. While he was lowered he saw two skelettons and a saddle at a depth of about 17m, obviously the rock which formerly blocked the shaft had fallen down since the burial. He touched the floor 46m below the surface.

The first explorer saw sparkles on the rocks, but being just a cowboy he did not really know the origins. So he told his companions about the sparkles and soon they believed in a gold vein. Today it is obvious that this had only been reflections of calcite crystals. Walter Peck purchased the ground, as he planned to mine the gold. But the assay report of the collected rocks revealed only limestone and iron oxide. Walter Peck was pretty disappointed.

The first explorer had discovered the two bodies and the saddle. The saddle never made it into the newspaper, and so the bodies soon became the remains of prehistoric cavemen. Scientists came from the east to pick up and study the bones. Walter Peck had a brilliant idea, how to make a business of his gold-less gold mine. He charged 25 cents from visitors to see where the "caveman" had been found. They were lowered into the cave with a primitive elevator built of wood and ropes, but they had to bring their own light.

The depth of the cave was the biggest problem for commercializing it. With the rope, only one person at a time could enter the cave. A wooden stair was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.). In order to employ the many people out of work during the depression, they made a deal with Walter Peck: they built the entrance for free, but he had to provide the material.

This stair allowed larger groups of visitors, but the height equals a 17 stories building, so only the fittest could visit the cave. So the construction of an electric elevator started. A 64m deep shaft was blasted into the limestone, which took two years. The installation of the elevator took 18 more months. Since this time the elevator takes the visitors down to the floor level of the cave. And finally the location of the dead bodies was sealed off forever, as requested by the Hualapais.