The Czech Republic’s Hidden Natural Wonder
The Javoříčko caves are situated under Špraněk Hill, in the picturesque landscape near the villages of Javoříčko and Březina. The site is a complicated complex of huge chambers, passages, abysses, and joints at several levels. The Svěcená díra (Holy Hole) section and the Zátvořice Abyss have been known for many years, and the first written record of this underground area dates back to 1873. The majority of the cave system was discovered later, in 1938, by a team led by the game warden Vilém Švec. Other sections were gradually discovered by amateur and professional speleologists. The Javoříčko Caves have been open to the public since 1938 and the total length of all the corridors known today is 6km, with denivelation of over 100m. What makes these caves unique are their gorgeous, well-preserved dripstones.
The caves’ underground system is the most extensive of dozens of caves in the Javoříčko Karst. In terms of the length of its corridors, it is one of the longest in the Czech Republic. The oldest section, the upper level, is the largest of the chambers. The middle floor is situated about 40m lower and is connected to the upper floor through systems of shaft-like, winding corridors. The most extensive part of the middle floor is the so-called Objevná cesta (Trail of Discovery) and the Hlinitá Caves.
There are several entrances to the underground labyrinth of the Javoříčko Caves, which were created in several phases when two streams flowed together underground and the water drained to lower levels. The most substantial part of the Caves was probably created during the Tertiary Period when the collapse of ceilings and walls due to earthquakes caused the formation of big dome-like spaces.
History and Discovery
Špraněk Hill kept its underground secret for a long time. Only the Holy Hole and the Zátvořice Abyss had been open to adventurers and the curious. In 1936, a game warden called Vilém Švec actively began to explore the karst cavities of Špraněk. He and his work team, among others, started excavation works at the bottom of the Holy Hole.
After six weeks, the Abyss opened and they gradually descended to its bottom, which lay 27m lower. They found a cave passage which continued in two directions. In April 1938, after they had crept through the challenging Objevná cesta (Trail of Discovery) area, the explorers discovered the vast Dóm gigantů (Cave of Giants) and subsequently some other areas on the upper floor of the Javoříčko Caves. Shortly after their discovery, Suťový dóm (Detritus Cave) was located and a passage was dug up to the surface. Works to make the cave accessible to visitors began, and they were opened to the public in May 1938.
Another important turning point in the history of the Javoříčko Caves is the period between 1949 and 1958 when another part of the lower floors – the Hlinitá Caves and Jeskyně Míru Caves – were discovered. The extent and importance of this discovery is comparable with those of Švec. The Jeskyně Míru Caves consist of a complex system of corridors which are linked to the upper floor of the cave system. They were made accessible to the public in 1961. Both professional and amateur speleologists continue to explore the Javoříčko Caves to the present day.
They document different parts of the cave labyrinth and their work leads to the occasional discovery of new underground spaces under Špraněk Hill.
Stalactite and Stalagmite Decoration
The spaces under the Špraněk Hill are a genuine encyclopaedia of stalactite and stalagmite shapes. Even during the first days of work undertaken to make the cave accessible to visitors, various colourful sinters (hard siliceous or calcareous deposits precipitated from mineral springs) were wisely protected. Thousands of fine straws decorating the ceilings of the underground halls are completely different in their proportions across the cave complex. Numerous stick and carrot stalactites change to unusual stalactites. Huge sinter cupolas have groups of stick stalagmites and the walls are covered with hundreds of square metres of rimstone cascades and sinter coatings. Furthermore, incredible curtain and spherical stalactites adorn the chambers, making the Javoříčko Caves one of the Czech Republic’s most beautiful natural places.
Areas of the Javoříčko Caves Inaccessible to the Public
The tour routes do not lead through many parts of the Javoříčko Caves system. Frequently, they are a confusing tangle of unmapped corridors, chambers, and joints which are difficult to access. The complex set of abysses – Lví jáma, Vlčí jáma, and Medvědí jáma – which were mapped in detail by a professional speleological group from the Homeland Studies Museum in Olomouc in the 1950s, are an exception.
The most significant discoveries by amateur explorers include penetrating the area behind Závrtový dóm (Doline Dome) in the Jeskyně Míru Caves. In 1983-1984 two huge chambers were discovered.
One of them – the Olomouc Dome – is more than 100m long and is the largest ever discovered in the Javoříčko Caves. It ends in a massive, impenetrable cave-in. The process of documentation and exploration works in the whole Javoříčko Caves system indicates the possibility of some other undiscovered areas on both the upper and lower floors of the caves.
Conservation and Use
The Javoříčko Caves are part of the Špraněk National Nature Reserve. At present, they are under the direct administration of the Agency for Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection of the Czech Republic – and they are strictly protected.
The conservation of the Javoříčko Caves is not only important because of its unique stalactite and stalagmite shapes, but also because it is the greatest wintering site for bats in the Czech Republic. The Javoříčko Caves have been known as a bat hibernaculum since the 19th century.
The lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) is the most common, with about 5,500 individuals recorded last winter. The second most abundant species is Geoffroy´s Bat (Myotis emarginatus).
Visitors arrive through an artificial entrance into what is known as the Debris Dome. This large space, with an area of 2,000m2, is connected to the Zátvořice Abyss and boasts a gorgeous dripstone formation. The ceiling is particularly impressive, with a forest of stalactites of various forms and shapes. The bottom is covered with boulder debris, where one can see snow-white crust cupolas.
The Lion Abyss, with a total depth of 60m, leads from the Debris Dome.
The cave tour continues through a beautiful high corridor to the impressive Dome of Giants. This elongated space is dominated by stalagmites of up to 6m high, and by a wall decorated with sinter coatings, which is known as Niagara Falls.
There is a beautiful view of the Dome of Giants from a path that leads visitors to the Fairytale Caves, where one can see thin straw stalactites, spherical stalactites, and a unique transparent formation called Curtain. The corridor of the Fairytale Caves leads to the Holy Hole, which is where the short cave tour ends.
The long cave tour continues through the Virgin Caves into three successive passages that form part of the Peace Caves: Špraněk, Vojtěchov, and Březina. These passages are 1-4m wide and sometimes up to 10m high, with rich dripstone decorations.
Helictites, or unusual stalactites that can be found predominantly in ceiling parts, are typical of the formations that can be seen here. The passage bends in the Doline Dome, where the spaces branch in different directions. The tour concludes with visitors passing the Horse Formation, situated at the turn to the Black Chasm, and continuing to an artificial exit tunnel.