Cave of the Winds is located in Williams Canyon, a little north of the town of Manitou Springs in the Front Range (Rocky Mountains) of central Colorado, USA.


The cave is principally developed in the Manitou Limestone, a Lower Ordovician unit consiting of limestones and dolomitic limestones and dolostones.  The uppermost portions of the cave extends into the overlying Williams Canyon Formation (?Devonian to Mississippian) and even the basal Leadville Limestone (a.k.a. Hardcrabble Limestone; a.k.a. Madison Limestone) of Mississippian age.


The area’s stratigraphy is well exposed in the walls of Williams Canyon, where the cave is located.  Precambrian Pikes Peak Granite (1.08 to 1.09 Ga) is the local basement rock, with Upper Cambrian Sawatch Sandstone resting nonconformably above.  The Peerless Formation (Upper Cambrian), Manitou Limestone, Williams Canyon Formation, Leadville Limestone, and Fountain Formation (Pennsylvanian-Permian) occur above that.  The sedimentary rocks in Williams Canyon are somewhat structurally tilted.


Published studies have shown that Cave of the Winds was dissolved out principally during the Late Miocene to Early Pliocene (~7 to 4 Ma).  Cave sediments in Cave of the Winds date from the Early Pliocene to Early Pleistocene (~4.3 to 1.5 Ma).  The cave itself formed in the mixing zone between deep groundwaters having high carbon dioxide (CO2) content and shallow groundwaters having low carbon dioxide content.  The resulting mixing zone consisted of high-aggressivity groundwater.  Since the Pleistocene, the subsurface elevation of the mixing zone has lowered and moved downdip, toward the town of Manitou Springs.


Over 3 kilometers of passages have been mapped at Cave of the Winds.  The public-access “Discovery Tour” goes through travertine speleothem-rich sections having dripstone (stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws), draperies, flowstone, coralloids (knobstone; cave popcorn, helictites, and anthodites.  Travertine is a crystalline-textured, chemical sedimentary rock composed of calcite (CaCO3 - calcium carbonate).


Cave of the Winds photos


Photos with labels



Info. synthesized from:

Luiszer (1999) - Geological Society of America Field Guide 1: 61-70.


Davis & Luiszer (2009) - Caves and Karst of the USA.  pp. 242-243, 245.


Hose (2009) - Select field guides to cave and karst lands of the United States.  Karst Waters Institute Special Publication 15: 113-118.


Luiszer (2009) - Select field guides to cave and karst lands of the United States.  Karst Waters Institute Special Publication 15: 119-132.



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