Cody Caves is a unique provincial park above Ainsworth Hot Springs. An underground stream flows for over a kilometre through ancient limestone. The 63 hectare park was established in July 1966, . Bring your own water as potable water is not available in the park.
Discovered by prospector Henry Cody around 1898, Cody Cave is one of the most unusual yet obscure natural features of the Selkirk Mountains. The cave achieved early fame as the fabulous “Queen Victoria Cave”. Later, in 1899, the caves were the subject of a short story written by Roger Pocock for “Argosy” magazine entitled “The Noble Five”. This story described a cave whose inner chambers were walled with gold ore. The caves then grew in popularity and were visited by many locals and curious individuals including, in 1908, the governor General of Canada, Earl Grey.
However, the first thorough exploration was not undertaken until 1902. With admirable accuracy, a member of the seven-man exploration team reported to the Nelson Daily New the Argosy story’s exaggerations, he also noted somewhat wistfully that his party had “failed to find the chamber with walls of gold ore. It is easier to find gold in a story than in real life.”
Through not walled with gold, many portions of Cody Cave’s approximately 800 metres (2600′) of explorable passage are impressively decorated with crystalline calcite deposits which have been building over millennia at an average rate of a cubic centimetre per century. Precipitated crystal by crystal, a drip water carrying dissolved limestone both evaporates and releases dissolved carbon dioxide in the cave atmosphere, these deposits or speleothems take on many form sin Cody Cave. flowstone coats some of the passage walls, while a few slender stalactites (growing downward), stubby stalagmites , fragile curtains, and banded, translucent “bacon strips” can be found in the outer chambers. Several side passages contain once-sparkling crystal pools and rimstone dams or gours, whose age-old beauty has been ruined in less than a century by the muddy boots of eager, unappreciative cave explorers. Farther into the cavern, one can still find intact impressive clusters of the fine, hollow stalactites called soda straws, and unusual helictites, delicate fingers of calcite growing erratically against the pull of gravity. However, in the same areas, the jagged stumps of large stalactites and stalagmites testify to the ignorance of those cave visitors whose personal drive for souvenirs even today continues to diminish the beauty of thousands of years of calcite growth.
As old as the speleothems are, the cave in which they have formed is much older. Carbon dioxide from surface soils has dissolved in groundwater to form a mild carbonic acid solution which enlarged cracks and joints in the bedrock through chemical corrosion. The enlargement process has been furthered by corrosion, the grinding action of water-borne insoluble particles, and by collapse resulting from the undermining of passage walls and ceilings.
The process of cave formation has been accelerated periodically by the lowering of groundwater tables and by the rushing of gravel-bearing glacial meltwaters after the ice ages. It has been altered by the plugging effects of the cobbles, gravels and silts deposited at the passing of these same waters. Episodes in this timeless history reveal themselves in the layered remains of coarse and fine deposits on the walls at all levels throughout the cave. The story continues today as the small cave stream proceeds imperceptibly to cut downward through the limestone.
To Henry Cody in 1889, Argosy writer Roger Pocock in 1899, Canadian Governor-General Earl Grey in 1908, and to thousands of visitors since, the Cody Cave has been an object of curiosity,wonder and challenge. A relatively simple system, it offers no particular hazards to visitors properly equipped with good boots, warm clothes, hard hats, several sources of light each, and the common sense not to exceed the limitations of their experience and equipment. Par of the least disturbed section of the cave has been gated so that this area will remain free of vandalism and removal of exceptional formations.
For public safety and cave protection Cody caves are gated and locked.Access to this special area is possible only with guided cave tours for visitors’ safety and for protection of the cave’s features. For information on guided tours of the cave please go to the following website http://www.codycavetours.com/.
Drive: From Ainsworth, drive north 3kms on Hwy 31, and turn left at a small gravel pit. Drive 10 kms on the 2WD, high clearance road (unsuitable for motorhomes, vehicles pulling trailers or vehicles with low ground clearance).
The caves are 0.8km (20 minutes) up the trail.