Karst topography is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. In preparation for their upcoming visit to Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky, our 7th grade student scientists have been exploring karst formations and the natural processes that create caves. Using sugar cubes to simulate soluble rock, students created drainage systems and collected observational data ( in words, drawings, and diagrams) of speleothems that developed. Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world with over 300 miles of surveyed caves passages and our excited spelunkers will spend a several hours traveling back “in time” seeing dramatic views of stalactites, stalagmites, and all sorts of speleothems.
Mammoth Cave is indeed a scientific treasure chest. In addition to being the world’s longest known cave, it contains a clear and complete record of geomorphic and climatic changes over the past 10 to 20 million years, is said to be the most diverse cave ecosystem in the world and has the greatest variety of sulfate minerals of any cave.