Endless Caverns: An Underground Journey into the Show Caves of Appalachia

Endless Caverns: An Underground Journey into the Show Caves of Appalachia

by Douglas Reichert Powell


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For generations, enterprising people in the southern Appalachians have turned the region's extensive network of caves into a strange, fascinating genre of tourist attraction. Visitors pay admission to take a tour deep underground, learning a little about history and geology while puzzling over lit-up rock formations said to resemble anything from Niagara Falls to the Capitol dome. Then off go the lights, enveloping the travelers in total darkness—until the guide flips them back on and welcomes folks back into the safety of the inevitable gift shop. Show caves, as Douglas Reichert Powell explains in Endless Caverns, are at once predictable and astonishing, ancient and modern, eerie and sentimental. Their story sparks memories of a fleeting cool moment deep underground during a hot summer vacation, capturing in microcosm the history and culture of a region where a deeply rooted sense of place collides with constant change.

Reichert Powell takes readers along on his journey through the past and present of Appalachia's show caves, highlighting the characters who have owned and operated them, the ways the attractions have developed and changed over the years, and the odd intrigue that still leads people to buy their ticket and head underground. Tourist tastes may shift as interstates whisk travelers past the backroads and on to trendier destinations, but the show cave—like Appalachia itself—endures.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469638638
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 04/23/2018
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Douglas Reichert Powell is associate professor of English at Columbia College Chicago and author of Critical Regionalism: Connecting Politics and Culture in the American Landscape.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

A revelatory and compelling introduction to another Appalachia—Appalachia Underground.—Jeff Biggers, author of The United States of Appalachia

Reichert Powell's research is authoritative, and his love for the topic radiates from the book.—Scott Huler, author of On the Grid

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