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Endless Caverns

An Underground Journey into the Show Caves of Appalachia

Douglas Reichert Powell

Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
Subject: Travel | University of North Carolina
Print ISBN: 9781469638638
eBook ISBN: 9781469638645


For generations, enterprising people in the southern Appalachians have turned the region's extensive network of caves into a strange, fascinating genre of tourist attraction. Visitors pay admission to take a tour deep underground, learning a little about history and geology while puzzling over lit-up rock formations said to resemble anything from Niagara Falls to the Capitol dome. Then off go the lights, enveloping the travelers in total darkness--until the guide flips them back on and welcomes folks back into the safety of the inevitable gift shop. Show caves, as Douglas Reichert Powell explains in Endless Caverns, are at once predictable and astonishing, ancient and modern, eerie and sentimental. Their story sparks memories of a fleeting cool moment deep underground during a hot summer vacation, capturing in microcosm the history and culture of a region where a deeply rooted sense of place collides with constant change.

Reichert Powell takes readers along on his journey through the past and present of Appalachia's show caves, highlighting the characters who have owned and operated them, the ways the attractions have developed and changed over the years, and the odd intrigue that still leads people to buy their ticket and head underground. Tourist tastes may shift as interstates whisk travelers past the backroads and on to trendier destinations, but the show cave--like Appalachia itself--endures.