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Discovering Alabaster Caverns, the World’s Largest Gypsum Cave

There are only 3 places on this planet where you’ll find a rare mineral called black alabaster – Italy, China and Freedom, Oklahoma. Touring the over 100,000 year old gypsum cavern at Alabaster Caverns State Park is only one of the great ways to spend a day here.

No major interstates lead to Freedom. Instead, the state highways will treat you to an example of Oklahoma’s diverse geography. In one hour you’ll be looking off into miles of fields waving under broad sky. In another hour you’ll see the buttes of the Gloss Mountains rising up on the horizon.

Taking the tour without knowing the history of Alabaster Caverns doesn’t do the trip justice.

The Hundred Million Year-Old History of Alabaster Caverns

270 million years ago, what is today northwest Oklahoma was covered by the Permian Sea. Over the ages the earth shifted, the sea rose and fell. Finally, the bottom of the sea was pushed above the water. Crack’s in the exposed land were filled with water, and over thousands of years the land was eroded. After the water receded, those “caverns” that it had formed were left behind.

So while you’re taking the Alabaster Caverns tour, remember that it took millions of years for those enormous rocks to end up where they are today.

The caverns that you’ll walk through have been an attraction long before the state park existed. One of the more interesting items we found in the cavern was carvings on the gypsum walls made by tourists in the early 1900s. Public tours then were a far cry from today. While today the cavern has safe lighted paths, early tourists had no such luxury.

Spelunking in Alabaster Caverns

Much of the world’s largest gypsum cave isn’t open to just anyone. And if you have the right license, you can explore areas of the Alabaster Caverns that are off the beaten path.

There are thousands of feet of undeveloped caves here. In fact, a majority of the underground wonder of Alabaster Caverns is not prepared for public tours. While caving isn’t friendly to someone of my size, the gypsum caverns seem like a caver’s playground.

The state park offers a variety of caving opportunities. If you’d rather try spelunking in a group setting, there are occasional group caving adventures available. And if you’re an experienced caver, you can explore Alabaster Caverns at your leisure.

Hiking Cedar Canyon

Not every activity at Alabaster Caverns is underground. Our favorite part of the trip to this park was hiking the Cedar Canyon. Even if you haven’t hiked a day in your life, Cedar Canyon will lure you into a walk in the woods.

One of the best parts of hiking in Cedar Canyon is that the paths aren’t well-defined. While I enjoy hiking at any park, the trails in this canyon give you the feeling that you aren’t being forced in any direction.

You’re free to roam the inside of the canyon, and there is a wealth of beauty to be found. Water trickles from a stream inside the cave out into the canyon. Fallen trees provide natural bridges across the creek. You get the feeling that at Alabaster Caverns State Park, you can truly explore.

Alabaster Caverns is a great for exploring Oklahoma’s caves and Canyons. Campgrounds on-site make this a good destination for families looking to spend a weekend outdoors. I look forward to visiting again.

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