First discovered in 1845, Cosmic Cavern continues to awe crowds
BERRYVILLE, ARK. – For nearly 180 years, adventurers have come to a natural wonder millions of years in the making.
Cosmic Cavern in Berryville, Ark., was discovered in 1845 by John Moore and his two sons while mining for lead near Indian Creek. The Moores dubbed the cavern Moore’s Cave.
Early exploration of the cave found a chamber and an underground lake below the opening.
Ewell family homesteaded above the cave in the 1880s and mined for “cave onyx,” which was carved into jewelry and figurines sold at Eureka Springs. Two boys resumed the mining for cave onyx in the 1920s, and some of that onyx became the gear shift knob for the Model A Ford.
The cave was undeveloped until 1927 when a staircase was built to begin tours. Since its discovery, Moore’s Cave has been known as Bear Cave, Maple Springs Cave, Joe Johnson Cave at Sycamore Hollow, Majestic Cave, Mystic Cave and Mystery Cave.
Owned by Randy and Anita Langhover since 1980, the cave is now Cosmic Cavern is Arkansas’s largest, privately-owned show cave. In 2022, 26,2000 guests explored the cavern.
Manager Janell Honey said the cave is about a half-mile long, and visitors may choose the one-third mile round trip, which takes about an hour and 15 minutes, or take the “wild tour” and explore the undeveloped cave area discovered by Randy in 1993.
“He blasted through and found an entire area and another lake,” Janell said. “The north part of our cave, everything is pristine and pretty much untouched; it’s what a cave is supposed to look like.”
Randy’s discovery was more than 1,000 feet of additional space.
The new area has been dubbed the “Oh My God” room, which Randy uttered when he found a new section.
“It is absolutely amazing,” Janell said. “It is pristine and has the tallest soda straw (a young stalactite) in the Ozarks, which is 9 feet tall. It was a column from top to bottom at one time, but a few inches broke off the top, so it’s balancing there. It’s one of my favorites and a crowd favorite too. When you look in there and see all these massive columns that are like a million soda straws that have come together to make one big column, it’s pretty amazing. This cave is just amazing, and we love to show it off.”
The Silent Splendor is part of the 1993 discovery. Pure white soda straws and bizarre helictites cover the ceilings of this section of the cave. Many of the formations are transparent.
The two lakes in the cave are “bottomless.” In 1996, divers descended about 80 feet in the cave’s waters and found no bottom.
“We’ve tried, but they just keep going,” Janell said of the lakes.
History knows when the cave was found and what has happened there since its discovery, but there are still many unknowns.
“There is just so much history here,” Janell said. “We’ve even got one ghost. He likes to play little tricks on us now and then. When you are in the cave by yourself, you never feel like you’re alone; you keep thinking someone else is there and coming around the corner. He’s ornery.”
Janell explained that someone wrote the name “Sam” on the wall of the cave, so they assumed the prankster was the spirit of Sam, but that might not be the case.
“We had a physic in the cave who identified this young boy as Jacob,” Janell said. “His name must be Jacob, but I call him Samuel Jacob.”
Visitors are welcome to take photos but cannot touch the formations inside the cavern.
All cave tours are guided, and visitors should wear comfortable shoes to navigate the steep and uneven stairs, but leave their coats and sweatshirts in the car. The cavern remains a constant 64 degrees.
“We get free AC in the summer and free heat in the winter,” Janell said. “The 99 percent humidity makes it feel more like 68, and we tell people they are going to get hot.”
Cosmic Cavern is open daily, except for Christmas day. It is also closed in January and February, reopening March 1 each year.