Bear Cave (Bärenhöhle)

Bear Cave

 

Location: Sonnenbühl, Swabian Alps  Map

Overall length: 292 meters

Temperature: 8- 10 C

 

Description of the Bear Cave

Bear Cave is located near Sonnenbühl, Swabian Alps in Germany. The total length of Bear Cave is 292 meters and most of it is accessible to the public. It gets its name from the remains of a cave bear those remains were found inside. The skeleton still remains inside connected by wires into life like stance. Besides cave bears archaeologists discovered remains of the cave lions, rhinos and other animals that stumbled here or were brought as a prey by the carnivore animals.
 
Bear Cave was rediscovered by a teacher Fauth in 1834 who walked in this area in search of medicinal herbs or so the story tells. His snuff box fell into a crevice that was later turned out to be a huge cave. Another re- discovery occurred in 1949 by Charles Bez who tracked several bats that flew inside the ground thus identifying the entrance site to underground cave system. Thus another name for the Bear Cave is a Charles Cave as it is sometimes called. However this is not the first time humans used this cave. In the medieval times bodies of the plague victims were thrown into the same crevice. Many of the unfortunate victims were re- buried, but few skeletons remained inside the Bear Cave to this day. They are visible underneath the glass.
 
The temperature inside Bear Cave is fairly cool and usually ranges between 8 and 10 C throughout the year. So take some warm clothes not to freeze yourself. You can take photos inside the cave, but avoid using flashes. Bear Cave had problems with the growing mosses and other primitive plants inside the cave. This is why the lights were switched to offer less light to growing photosynthesizing plants. Additionally they are turned off when there is no need for them.

 

History

The cave system of the Karls and Bear Cave was created over a period of around five million years. Already around 20,000 years ago it was frequented by cave bears, but also by cave lions and rhinos. Some of the bears' bones can still be viewed today, a fully reconstructed skeleton of a cave bear is on display inside the bear cave.

The Bear Cave is now also protected as a geotope under the name Karls- und Bärenhöhle on the south-western slope of the Höllberg approx. Since April 2013, the bear cave has also been one of 26 information points of the UNESCO Geopark Swabian Alb.

Rediscovery
The Karlshöhle was rediscovered in 1834 by the Erpfingen teacher Fauth in search of medicinal herbs. His snuffbox had fallen into a crack in the rock. When trying to fish them out, Fauth discovered that there was a large cave under the gap. In his honor, the entrance column to the cave was named as Fauthsloch. The anecdote of the discovery is still told today at the beginning of every tour of the cave. Apparently the crevice had already been used in the Middle Ages to throw plague victims into it, the skeletons of which were found during exploration below the crevice. The large number of cave bear bones found was also striking.

In 1949, the cave guide Karl August Bez, while watching the flight of bats, discovered the continuation of the cave with a small passage at the end of the Karlshöhle. In this continuation there were again significantly more bear bones, which is why the newly discovered section was called the bear cave.

Development
As early as 1934, the Karlshöhle was provided with electric light to make sightseeing possible. As early as 1950, just one year after the bear cave was discovered, the entire cave system was equipped with a walkable path and an artificial tunnel made it possible to exit the bear cave. Since then, the entire cave can be visited over a length of 271 meters.

Color changes due to algae growth
The development of greenish discolouration and moss formation on some of the rocks in the cave was probably caused by the use of fluorescent tubes containing UV light. For this reason, fluorescent tubes are not used in other caves and the lights are only switched on during guided tours. Therefore, no flashing light may be used in stalactite caves.

In 2015, the old lights in the Bear Cave were replaced by energy-saving LED lighting. One hall of the Karlshöhle and one of the Bear's Caves are illuminated in color.