Last year Workampers Jim and Marcie Cumberland invited us to see the Moaning Caverns where they were working. Marcie worked in the gift shop, Jim gave tours. They have moved on to new caverns but we finally got there since it is only about an hour from Stockton where we were attending the Escapee RV Club’s Escapade. It was a rainy day so this “wet cave” was actively dripping—on our heads—as we descended. The formations in a “wet cave” are still growing while a dry cave (like Grand Canyon Caverns or Mitchell Caverns in the Mojave) are not. Moaning Caverns has all types of cave formations, known as speleothems, such as stalactites and stalagmites, popcorn and helictites. The largest formation is a type of travertine flowstone called the Chocolate Waterfall. It looks chocolate-colored because the water flows over terra rosa clay with iron oxide, incorporating it into the flowstone.
Bruce, the manager and our guide for the morning, gave us a history of the caverns and told us how it got its name. Standing at the bottom, we were able to hear noises rather like the playing of a timpani drum. Before the caverns were developed, people would hear that sound, blended together into a moan, coming out of the opening. For the more adventurous, you can don equipment and rappel through the original opening of the caverns to the bottom of the main chamber— 165 feet down. Or you can take a 3-hour adventure tour to explore one of the deeper chambers with an optional rappel. Equipment is provided for both.
The tour was fascinating. Because of the geology of this region, a number of caverns were created in this area millions of years ago and this Sierra foothills country is where miners combed these hills for gold during the California Gold Rush. We were wishing we had more time to explore Angel’s Camp and the surrounding location. That will have to happen another visit. Jaimie