Caving by Candlelight

limestone formations at Lewis & Clark Caverns

Limestone formations loom out of the darkness in the Lewis & Clark Caverns in southwest Montana.

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When you're hundreds of feet underground, any light is welcome—especially if you're in southwest Montana's Lewis & Clark Caverns and the light is a candle's glow on limestone cascades. Several times in December, groups of 20, equipped with candles and coffee-can lanterns, descend into the cave near Whitehall.

For safety, overhead lights illuminate the trip's first half, mostly a series of steep stairways and narrow passageways. At the main chamber, the electric lighting ends and the candles take over. Giant stalactites hanging from the ceiling 50 feet overhead extend from the shadows, and nearby formations glisten in the half-light.

"It's a different view and a different feeling, " says park manager Lynette Kemp. The tour continues by candlelight for an hour until it reaches the final room, where Christmas lights greet you. The entire adventure takes two hours and covers two miles; more than half the hike is outside the cave. Expect snow. Reservations accepted starting Dec. 1. (406) 287-3541, fwp.mt.gov/lands/site_281895.aspx.

Photography by Tom & Therisa Stack/DRR

This article was first published in November 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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