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Tour of Park Geology - Cave and Karst Parks


Cave and karst systems are important because the overwhelming majority of the nation's freshwater is groundwater. About 25% of the groundwater is located in cave and karst regions. The protection and management of these vital water resources are critical to public health and to sustainable economic development. Also, caves are storehouses of information on natural resources, human history and evolution. Recent studies indicated that caves contain valuable data that are relevant to global climate change, waste disposal, groundwater supply and contamination, petroleum recovery, and biomedical investigations. Caves also contain information related to anthropologic, archaeologic, geologic, paleontologic, and mineralogic discoveries and resources.

Caves and karst features occur in 120 parks in all regions of the National Park System (81 contain caves and an additional 39 contain karst). Over 3,900 caves are currently known throughout the system. Karst is a region of irregular topography with sinks, underground streams, and caves that were formed by dissolution of soluble rock. The number of caves ranges from as few as 10 to 15 caves per unit, to more than 450 caves per unit.

Caves--Primary Feature

Caves--Lava Tube

Caves--Sea cave

Other--Karst Features

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Last Updated: December 13, 2010