Types of Caves found in Utah

First we would like to offer a short definition of a cave. This is always controversial, but I think it lends itself to understanding and a basic beginning to knowledge of what we seek.

A cave is any natural opening into the earth or rock which is enter-able by humans and proceeds at least far enough to get the whole body into. The direction of entrance may be horizontal, sloping, or vertically up or down. Variations of names for caves may include shelters, grottos, speleological sites, etc. Other openings which are man made are called mines or tunnels etc. and are not considered caves. Mines and tunnels however may intersect a natural cave. Note that there are likely many thousands of spaces in the earth without any natural entrance. All that these spaces need to become a cave is for an opening large enough to enter to occur either naturally or man assisted. This is the source of many of the new caves discovered each year.

There are many different types of caves found in Utah. The following list is not comprehensive but includes some of the most commonly found types of caves in Utah. I have attempted to list them in the order of the most common to the least common.

Wind and Erosion Caves or Shelters
These type of caves are found all over Utah in most kinds of rock. The most common rock in Utah is a sedimentary rock called sandstone which is particularly suseptable to these kinds of forces. The most common rock along the Wasatch Front is Metamorphic Rock which has been hardened and changed by heat and pressure.

Limestone or Carbonate Rock Caves
Caves formed by water slowly dissolving carbonate rocks over long periods of time thus slowly widening passages for water to flow downward. These are usually formed at the water table and then often uplifted by earth movement and mountain formation later leaving them air filled. This type of rock is found in beds, pockets and seams in most of the mountains in Utah and comes in many differing ages, colors, harnesses and varieties. Not all limestone dissolves easily enough to for caves. Geological information is commonly used to locate areas with the most likelihood of good cave bearing rock. There are also caves formed by rising acidic waters in some parts of Utah and other places.

Lava Tube Caves
Caves formed during magmatic event eruptions of volcanoes where lava runs along the ground and the outside of the flow cools leaving the hot interior to continue to flow causing open air passages in the flow. There is often a collapse or an erosion into the tube to creat an opening or entrance.

Tectonic Caves
Earth and ground movement caves due to earthquakes and other natural forces. These are often narrow cracks which may be very deep.

Talus Caves
These caves tend to be small and are formed by rock or other debris falling and lodging and forming a ceiling over an open space.