The Jenolan Caves are Australia's most impressive limestone caves. They are the world's oldest discovered open caves and while they have not yielded fossils of great interest, their stalactitical formations, some pure white, are extraordinarily beautiful. The caves were discovered in 1838 by a convict bushranger.
Nine caves are open to the public. They have spectacular lighting, underground rivers and amazing formations. They all radiate from a hub formed by the Grand Arch, a natural tunnel through the ridge which forms the entrance to the caves' reserve.
Lucas Cave, the most popular with visitors, was discovered in 1860. It has many large chambers, including the Cathedral, which is over 50 metres high, and the vast Exhibition Chamber, which contains the Broken Column formation. The Cathedral is used for wedding ceremonies and recitals.
River Cave was discovered in 1903 and is the most extensive show cave. It includes the Minaret, Grand Column, Queen's Canopy and part of the River Styx. Until a concrete bridge was built in 1923, the cave was crossed by a small boat.
Chifley Cave, discovered in 1880 and lit by electricity in 1881, was known as the Left Imperial Cave until 1952. Two of the cave's chambers are decorated with coloured lights.
Imperial Cave is the easiest to visit. It is one of the few caves to show evidence of fossils and also has Tasmanian devil bones. The bedrock is richly endowed with marine fossils.
Orient Cave, while discovered in 1904, was not opened to the public until 1917. It contains some of the complex's grandest formations and was steam cleaned for preservation in 1968. Until 1954, Orient, along with Temple of Baal and Ribbon, was accessible only through the River Cave. Then the Binoomea Cut was constructed near Caves House to facilitate easier access.
Ribbon Cave was discovered at the same time as the Orient Cave. While only 60 metres long, it is very richly decorated.
Pool of Cerberus Cave was originally known as Skeleton Cave because of a wallaby skeleton near the entrance. It is a lower arm of the River Cave and was discovered in 1903. The major formations here are the Bath of Venus and part of the underground river system that forms the Pool of Cerberus itself.
Jubilee Cave is the longest at Jenolan, and takes the longest to see because of its remoteness from other caves. It offers stunningly beautiful formations at close quarters. Discovered in 1893, it is the least visited due to the time it takes to tour it.
Temple of Baal Cave was discovered in 1904 and has just two chambers. One is 42 metres high and is dominated by a nine-metre shawl formation known as Angel's Wing. It has a high incidence of peculiar formations known as helicites. It was named when an explorer saw two "shrines" standing beside one another.
The new 90-minute tour operates several times a day. It has a light and sound show which explores the creation of the cave, its discovery and legendary formations.
Tour guides take visitors through the caves and of course they all have great knowledge of their history.
There are picnic facilities and bushwalking tracks.