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Ozark Mountains

Ozark Mountains

The Ozark Plateau physiographic region of Arkansas encompasses more than one million acres located mostly in northwestern Arkansas.  The Ozark surface features were created as water eroded the plateau. This process took millions of years and shaped the Ozarks into its present rugged shape.  Caves, such as Blanchard Springs Caverns, were formed by streams flowing through cracks in the limestone.  These streams carved mountains out of the plateau.  They made bluffs, waterfalls, and natural dams.  The forest of the Ozarks is predominately oak and hickory, and the rocks are covered with lichens and mosses.

The main mineral deposited in Blanchard Springs Caverns is calcite.  Many factors determine the shape of the cave formations.  Examples of some of the cave formations are:

  • Soda straws (first stage stalactites) grow from the ceiling as water runs down inside them and deposits rings of calcite at their tips.
  • When the soda straws are plugged, water trickling down their outside turns them into larger carrot - or icicle - shaped stalactites.
  • Stalagmites, which rise from the floor when dripping water deposits minerals, are usually larger in diameter than stalactites and more rounded on top.
  • A stalactite and stalagmite may meet midway, forming a column.  One or the other may grow all the way to the floor or ceiling to form a column.

Blanchard Springs

Rainwater falling on the Ozarks has soaked into the ground for millions of years.  As it moved through the cracks in the limestone bedrock, it dissolved the stone and slowly widened the cracks to form Blanchard Springs Caverns.  The water remained in the caverns until surface erosion carved valleys and allowed the water to escape.  As the valleys cut deeper and deeper, lower sections of the cave were drained.  New springs then developed below older dried-up springs.

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