Featured picture: A stone curtain

Lehman Caves
(Image: National Park Service)

What here looks like a rust-colored fabric curtain is actually solid rock. Because it is a limestone stalactite formation in the Lehman Caves in Nevada.

Stalactite caves are created through the interaction of water and calcareous rock. If rainwater seeps into the soil in karst areas or groundwater rises from below, it can dissolve the calcium carbonates contained in the limestone from the surrounding rock. Over time, this can create large cavities and caverns – caves.

When these caves then dry out, stalactites and other limestone formations often form as the water seeps through the cave ceiling. They arise because part of the dissolved carbonate precipitates with every drop of water and remains on the ceiling or floor of the cave. Over time, these deposits form increasingly longer cones – the stalagmites rising from the ground or the hanging stalactites visible in the picture.

But the rock formation photographed here in the Lehman Caves of the Great Basin National Park in the USA is a specialty. This limestone curtain owes its creation to an elongated, slightly inclined crack in the limestone ceiling of the cave. The calcareous water flowing through it formed large-scale deposits at this gap, from which these flat calcareous formations then emerged.

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