Roadside America

Discover West Virginia’s Lost World Caverns

Natural history and a taste of the fantastic awaits you at this subterranean roadside attraction.

Adults and children alike will enjoy this 1/2-mile loop through towering stalagmites and stalactites 235 feet underground. Walk through a continuous room over 1,000 feet long and 120 feet high, slowly hollowed out over millions of years, draining into the nearby Greenbrier River. Stairs, ramps, and railings make the basic tour a breeze for anyone not in a wheel chair.

Lost World Caverns was discovered in 1942, though local farmers had been using its entrance to dump dead livestock and trash for decades. They had no idea what lay just under the surface until scientists from  Virginia Tech began to explore what was then known as “Grapevine Cave”. It was surveyed in the 1960s, and in 1967 the remains of a prehistoric cave bear were discovered.

In the 1970s, the cavern was developed for commercial tourism and in 1973 the National Park Service designated it a National Natural Landmark. Since then, Lost World Caverns has attracted the sensational. In 1971, a man named Bob Addis set the World Record for “Stalagmite Sitting” atop a 28-foot formation called the War Club, and in 1992 the infamous tabloid Weekly World News reported that “Bat Boy” had been caught living in the cave.

My self-guided tour took me past many impressive natural rock formations. The most famous is the “War Club,” but others include the “Bridal Veil” and “Snowy Chandelier,” both made from shimmering white calcite steadily deposited in small droplets over the millennia. “Goliath,” a 40-foot column with a circumference of 25 feet, is over 5 million years old. Other flowstone deposits, like the “Smurf Village”, are less impressive.

Claustrophobics, don’t despair; if you’re not unnerved by the slow descent through what looks like a concrete bunker to access the cave, you won’t have any problem once inside the spacious interior. The main room is also well-lit. The temperature is a steady 52 degrees Fahrenheit.

In addition to its main attraction, Lost World Caverns also features a large visitor center with gift shop and natural history museum, where you can see dinosaur bones and other fossils and learn more about the prehistoric bear discovered in the cave.

Lost World Caverns, at 907 Lost World Road north of Lewisburg, West Virginia, is open daily from 9:00am to 4:15pm. Self-guided tours are $12 for adults and $6 for children. A 4-hour, guided ‘wild tour’ is available for $79 for more adventurous spelunkers. Call (304) 645-6677 or email for more information.


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