Stalactites & Stalagmites - Which is Which?

Caves in Missouri, as well as around the world, are filled with stalactites and stalagmites.  Everyone has heard of these, but most people have trouble remembering which is which.  Today's Bridal Cave blog will hopefully help you to remember once and for all which one hangs from the ceiling and which one hangs from the floor.  We'll even teach you some interesting facts about how both are formed.  

There are a couple of different ways that people use to help them keep these two types of formations straight.  Stalactites are fixed "tight" to the ceiling, and stalagmites "might" trip you when you walk.  Another trick is to use the spelling. StalaCtite has a "C" like the Ceiling from which it hangs, and stalaGmites have a "G" like the Ground they grow on.  You may think these ideas sound corny, but we bet at least one of them will stick with you and you will always remember!


Now to get a little more technical.  The word "speleothem" is the term used for the decorative dripstone  features in a cave.  The most familiar speleothem formations are stalactites and stalagmites.  Ripley's Believe It Or Not rated Bridal Cave as having more cave formations per square foot than any other cave system in the world!  They also credit our Lake of the Ozarks attraction with having the world's largest drapery formation comprising over 500,000,000 cubic inches.  If you want to get a good look at some incredible speleothems, Bridal Cave is the perfect place to visit. 


As we stated above, stalactites are the formations that hang downward from the cave's ceiling.  They are formed when water slowly trickles through he cracks in the cave roof.  Drop after drop hangs form the ceiling, losing carbon dioxide and causing deposits of a film of calcite.  Successive drops add ring below ring, and the water dripping through the hollow center of the rings make a pendant cylinder.    

"Soda straws" are formed in this way.  These are the most fragile stalactites, narrow with the diameter of the drop of water, yet they can reach lengths of a yard or more.  When water accumulates to flow along the outside of these, the familiar cone shape begins to form.  Most end up with a pointed tip.       


The water dripping from stalactite begins forming the stalagmite from the ground up.  They are built in the same way, just in the opposite direction.  The tips of these are most often rounded.    

Eventually, stalactites and stalagmites will meet in the middle.  A column forms, then a curtain or drapery begins to show up on an inclined ceiling when the drops of water trickle along the slope.  Gradually, a thin sheet of calcite grows downward and hangs in what looks like decorative folds, like a drape.  When you shine a lantern or electric light on these, they transform the cave into a breathtaking natural wonderland.     

Bridal Cave, Lake of the Ozarks, Thunder Mountain Park, cave

These incredible formations are a large part of why we are considered one of America's most scenic cave tours.  Pictures are nice, but to truly appreciate the beauty of these natural wonders, you should visit us and tour Bridal Cave yourself.     

One of America's most scenic 
cave tours.

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526 Bridal Cave Road
Camdenton, MO 65020
(573) 346-2676


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