Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
Hidden in plain sight near Freedom, it is a wonder that more folks living right here in western Oklahoma have not seen the natural beauty of Alabaster Caverns.
But at a holiday weekend approaches, Alabaster Caverns Park Manager Mike Caywood wants to offer enough incentive to folks who have been putting it off. It is his goal to finally get the “hold-outs” out to the park and see what exists in their own back yard.
“Labor Day 2013 marks Alabaster Caverns 60th birthday and we’re having a birthday bash all weekend long,” he said.
The park’s theme this year is linked to the decade, the 1950s, when the State of Oklahoma purchased the land from its private owner, Charles Grass.
“The State of Oklahoma purchased the 200 acres the park is on in 1953,” Caywood said.
On Saturday, Aug. 31, 1950s style games such as hopscotch, four-square, marbles and jacks will be going on as well as 1950s movie showings and lantern tours of the caves in the evenings, Caywood said. On Sunday, Sept. 1, there will also be free hotdogs for the first 250 folks who show up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as well as birthday cake, which begins at 3 p.m.
And if that isn’t turning the clock back enough, Caywood decided the best way to get people in the mood was to turn back the “money clock” and go back to tour fees of that era all weekend long, he said.
For instance, a ticket for a one hour tour will cost $1.20, Caywood said.
“A family of four can tour the caverns for less than five dollars,” Caywood said.
Caywood said there will also be room for those who have restored a 1950 model automobile or motorcycle to showcase their efforts at the park over the weekend.
Formed by water, Alabaster Caverns runs about a mile underground and is the only gypsum formed “show cave” in the United States, Caywood said.
In fact, according to published data on the cave, Alabaster Caverns is one of only three sites in the world where the rare black alabaster exists. The other two are in Italy and China.
“It will be a unique type of cave for people to explore because it will be different than any other cave in the U.S. because it is gypsum and the others are limestone,” he said.
According to Caywood, there is no historical data on file that proves when the cave was first discovered.
According to representatives from the Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations, there is little or no readily available Native American history related to the Alabaster Caverns.
However, there is evidence that is was explored 1889 when Hugh Litton, who homesteaded the property during the Cherokee Outlet Run of 1883.
In the late 1930s, Charles Grass purchased the property and began improving it for public tourism, Caywood said.
After the State of Oklahoma purchased the property Sept. 1 1953, it took three years to further improve it for public tourism and in 1956, Oklahoma reclassified the area as an Oklahoma State Park, he said.
Caywood advises those who wish to tour the caves to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a light jacket, as the caves are about 50 to 60 degrees, even on the hottest days.
He said photos are allowable if they do not delay the tour. The birthday celebration will last throughout the three day holiday weekend, from Saturday, Aug. 31 through Monday, Sept. 2, he said.