The list reads like a who's who of United States National Parks. Jewel Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Russell Caves National Monument, Oregon Caves National Monument, Timpanogos National Monument, and Mammoth Cave National Park - as well as others. They are the caves of the United States National Park System.
Every year hundreds-of-thousands of people pour through these underground wonderlands to get only a small glimpse of the beauty this is contained within. And every year thousands of people have negative experiences in these caves because they were not equipped or prepared for the journey.
Visiting these underground natural wonders does require a certain degree of personal stamina. Some cave tours comprise of hundreds of stairs and may result in climbing hundreds of feet in vertical elevation. Most healthy adults will have no problem, but if you have medical conditions that restrict the amount of activity you can do, you probably should call ahead and speak to a staff member.
You should also bring the proper clothing for a cave tour. Caves for the most part are cool, damp places with a relatively stable ambient temperature. Some caves, like Timpanogos Cave National Monument in Utah, have an average ambient temperature of only 44 degrees F. Proper research is required. For example Natural Bridge Cavern in Texas, a private facility, has an ambient temperature of 85 degrees F.!!! Dressing in layers is critical to enjoying your stay if you are visiting a cool cave. You should also try to wear a light, clean, nylon jacket while in the cave if appropriate. The lint from your clothing sheds off as you walk through the cave and coats the delicate formations, stunting and sometimes stopping their growth.
Comfortable boots with good ankle support and that won't slip on damp surfaces is a must. Most cave tours run from 1/2 to one mile. Make sure your boots are clean before you enter the cave. Muddy boots contain millions of spores that will thrive in the damp recesses of a cave (especially when exposed to the light, which for some caves are left on all day), causing damage that will take millions of years to repair. Good boots will help take the strain off your feet, so you can enjoy more of the sights in the cave.
When going into a cave environment there are some other items you will probably want to take along. Most National Park caves are receiving a new low light system on timers to help offset the growth of formation destroying algae in the cave. This can make seeing the formations difficult, especially in larger caverns. A small, 2 double AA battery, halogen or xenon flashlight is very useful on a cave tour. You can use it sparingly to see formations in distant corners that others typically never see. You should always check with your guide before lighting up.
A camera is another thing that most people take with them on a cave tour. However low lighting conditions will wreak havoc with most inexpensive cameras. Make sure you use a fast film, ASA-400 at least when in a cave. You should use a flash whenever possible. Also remember that if you take your picture facing into the provided lights, the image will come out much darker then desired.
We've covered the do's of caving, what about the don'ts...