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Diving Deep Into the Foothills of the Fort Lewis Mountains, Courtesy of Dixie - A Visit To Dixie Caverns in Salem Virginia


Dear Henry,

Mini-Me #2 drove up from Savannah a couple of weeks ago to help us explore our new city and one of the local places we explored was Dixie Caverns, a short drive from Roanoke in the neighboring town of Salem.

The cave was discovered in the early 1920s by Bill McDaniel and his friend after his dog named Dixie fell into the cavern's entrance. After retrieving the dog unharmed, the young men explored the cave and began to offer tours. By 1924, the cave was well known and featured in several motor route guides.

Initially, all cave tours were done with caving racks and ropes, but in the late 1950s, another entrance was created, steps put in, and the narrow "back scratcher" corridor cleaned out.

Dixie Caverns contains some great features. There is a lot of flowstone, and several unique formations, including one that looks like a Tyrannosaurus Rex and one that resembles a wedding bell. 

The wedding bell formation has been a big draw for the cave, and several weddings have been performed beneath it. 


I've always been drawn to flowstone. I love all things "waterfall," and flowstone is essentially a petrified waterfall. It is so fascinating to see how water flows. Another interesting feature of the cave is that it isn't really underground. The cavern exists as a hollowed-out core of the foothill and doesn't go much more than 15 feet "underground."

Finally, the cave is particularly special because of the salamanders. The cave (and surrounding area depressions) are the only known home of the Plethodon Dixi, a species of cave salamander. Our guide was able to find one for us to see.

You can also see a portion of the Salem Fault. Fortunately, the fault hasn't been active for several thousands of years.

The tour lasts about 45 minutes and has quite a few stairs.   Afterward, we stopped by the gift store and antique mall.  

The caverns are open 11:00 to 4:00 every day, but Tuesday and the tours cost a reasonable $18.00

It was a great little adventure.

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Roanoke, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

Her online gallery can be found at shop.takethebackroads.com

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