Cave Formations: Stalagmites vs. Stalactites

Stalagmites and StalactitesCaves are among the most interesting geological formations. Imagine a building size solid chunk of limestone rock that slowly dissolves over time into a formation resembling Swiss cheese. These formations house some of the most interesting geological features that you can see, but getting to them can be tricky. Often extending deep into the ground, caves are home for formation such as massive crystals, stalagmites and stalactites.

Stalagmites are formations that rise from the floor of the cave while stalactites are similar forms that hang from the ceiling. Both of these formations come from a buildup of minerals, usually calcium carbonate, derived from the limestone in the cave. Water that is rich in calcium carbonate drips from the ceiling of the cave and lands on the floor. The mineral comes out of solution and creates a buildup. As additional water drips, the stalagmite gets taller from the mineral accumulation. Stalactites form in the opposite manner. Calcium carbonate is deposited on the ceiling of the cave as the water drips. As more water drips the stalactite grows in size and extends further toward the floor.

Stalagmites and stalactites often look like fingers within the cave. This image from Carlsbad Cavern shows a large collection of stalagmites and stalactites that create a spectacular display for visitors.

One Response to “Cave Formations: Stalagmites vs. Stalactites”

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