2016 MBMG Calendar Information

The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology has a long tradition of putting out calendars with a stunning photo on the front and details of the geology, history, and other information on the area on the back. This year, we just had too much information and too many amazing photos to fit on the calendar!

You can check out the full calendar here, but check out our other great stuff below.


The Tram

Lewis and clark Tram circa 1976Tram track-circa 1956

An interesting piece of the Caverns' history that we did not have room for is the tram. In the 1950s and 60s, there was a tram in place to take people up the steep trail to the cavern entrance. One of our staff members, Susan Smith, tracked down some family photos from 1956 showing the tram in action! (Susan is the one in the dress hanging onto the rail).

Photos courtesy of Susan Smith, MBMG.


Stunning Cave Photos

There are just too many interesting features to feature on the calendar! Here are a few we liked but couldn't fit. Photos courtesy of Rich Aram and Alan Engish (All rights Reserved)


Descending into the Caverns: The caverns provide a unique opportunity for students to safely go underground and see geology from the inside out.

Descending into the Caverns

Colums in Paradise

Columns in Paradise: With a person for scale, these giant columns formed when stalagmites slowly grew from the floor to the ceiling.


Giant Stalagmites: The large, complex stalagmites are highlighted by colored LED lights in the Paradise Room.

Giant stalagmites

Soda straw stalactites

Soda Straw Stalactites: This type of stalactite forms when water flows down the inside of a small, hollow tube. At the end of the tube the water droplet is held by surface tension while calcite crystals slowly grow around the edge of the tube, slowly extending the straw with each drop.


Flowstone Blanket: A type of flowstone called dripstone covers an irregular surface on the floor of the caverns. View about 6 feet across.

Flowstone blanket

Dogtooth Spar: Delicate, near-perfect crystals of calcite formed in calm, standing water in a cave pool. Crystals on the left are about ¼ inch wide and very fine, sugary textured crystals on the right are less than 1/16 inch across.


Cave Coral: A bumpy deposit of calcite forms a cave decoration known as cave coral inside the caverns. This type of cave decoration can also be called cauliflower or popcorn, depending on the viewer’s imagination.

Shelfstone and More: Flat layers of calcite shelfstone appear to float on the water in this cave pool. Many other cave decorations are also visible, including ribbons (upper left) and helictites (upper right). View about 2 feet across.


Caramel Falls: A sloping deposit of caramel-colored flowstone in a narrow channel on cave cauliflower or popcorn. View is about 10 inches across.

The Fried Egg Stalagmite: Concentric growth rings of calcite visible in a cross-section view of a broken stalagmite. The yoke of the egg formed in the center of the stalagmite by deposition of calcite after it was broken. View about 8 inches across.

Growth Rings: Similar to the Fried Egg Stalagmite, the cross-section view of this broken stalagmite shows concentric growth rings formed by slow deposition of calcite. Varying, low concentrations of impurities such as iron indicate changing conditions during formation of the stalagmite. View about 10 inches across.


The Fireman's Pole

The Fireman’s Pole: A unique, thin, smooth stalactite extends down to a short stalagmite in the Paradise Room to form this column.

One Arm at a Time: Rich Aram squeezes through a wormhole so small that one arm at a time must be extended through the opening in order to pass through.

Worm Hole


Mixed features

Mixed Features: This photo shows an odd-shaped column (left) with helictites growing on its top half. Soda straws hang from the ceiling (upper right), popcorn covers the wall behind (lower right), and smooth flowstone covers the floor (lower left).

Ribbon Flags: Delicate flowstone decorations known as ribbons grow along a wall in the caverns.

Ribbon Flags

cave popcorn

Cave Popcorn: An excellent example of a seepstone decoration called cave popcorn. Cave popcorn forms when water saturated with calcium carbonate slowly weeps from pores in the limestone and deposits calcite.


Stalagmites in the Cathedral Room

Stalagmites in the Cathedral Room: Stalagmites are a type of dripstone decoration formed where water saturated with calcium carbonate drips from the ceiling and slowly precipitates calcite on the floor of the caverns.

Stalagmites surrounded by Flowstone: Smooth flowstone formed by precipitation of calcite from sheets of flowing water appears to partially bury stalagmites in the caverns.


Dr. Rich Aram, guru of the Caverns

Guru of the Caverns: Dr. Rich Aram discusses the geology of Lewis and Clark Caverns during the 2014 Montana Geological Society field trip. Dr. Aram completed his Master’s Thesis on the geology of the caverns in 1979 and has spent many years studying them.

CCC Exploration Hole: Members of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) cut this hole through a wall of small columns while exploring the caverns in the late 1930s. Hole is about 2.5 feet wide.

CCC Exploration


Cave pool

Cave Pool: Water in this pool has a green tint to it due to contamination by copper from pennies tossed into the pool in years past.

CCC Exit Tunnel: Visitors to the caverns exit from the Paradise Room through this tunnel, cut through limestone bedrock by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in the late 1930s.

Exit