Lake Cave Suspended Table Credit Elements Margaret River

In the early 1900s, people shimmied down a 400 year old Grandma Karri to get down to Lake Cave.

Today there are stairs and viewing platforms, which descend through the natural beauty of the doline, down to the small cave entrance.

The doline used to be a giant cavern. Then the ceiling collapsed and created an incredible sunken forest, laden with ferns, karris and wildflowers. It’s breathtaking, which is also how you’ll feel climbing the 325 stairs to the surface.

The suspended deck is the best spot to admire the sunken forest. The view takes in the magnificent doline, which is probably why people choose the spot to get married, and to celebrate other special occasions.

Note: In late 2021 there was a significant bushfire in the National Park, which resulted in damage to the cave access infrastructure. Luckily the cave was left intact, and after months of hard work by the specialist in-house team the cave is once again open to the public for tours. There is still some construction work to be completed, and this will take place over the next few months. In the meantime, visiting now is a great opportunity to witness the beautiful regrowth and regeneration of nature that occurs after a fire. 

Descending the stairs into Lake Cave, Margaret River.
Descending the new stairs into the sunken forest. Photo credit Tim Campbell.

History Of Lake Cave

Lake Cave is one of more than 100 limestone caves beneath the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge. Lake Cave’s manager, Andrew Green, says there’s evidence that the Wadandi Noongar people used nearby caves to shelter in the cold winter months.

“Extensive research was done on a cave nearby, they went down and found 22,000 years of continuous use by the Wadandi Noongar people,” he says. “In Devil’s Lair, which is south of here in Boranup, they dug down four metres through the floor and found 47,000 years of continuous use.”

European settlers first noticed the cave in 1867. A 16-year-old Frances Bussell was searching for lost cattle when her horse stopped suddenly at a forty-metre drop. The Bussell family didn’t find the cave again for thirty years.

Since opening to the public in 1901, Lake Cave has been something of a marvel to people. Andrew says caving was going through a real boom at the time, and folk came from all over to explore caves in the region.

“People used to get a train from Perth to Bunbury, then to Busso, then they’d get a horse and cart from Busso to Caves House in Yallingup, then horseback down to here,” he says. “It was a big deal.”

Lake Cave Credit Scott Slawinski
The breathtakingly beautiful formations of Lake Cave are a sight to behold. Photo credit Scott Slawinski.

Unique Formations

When you step into Lake Cave, your guide will tell you to duck carefully beneath Headache Rock. Once inside you’ll be met with a sparkling crystal chamber, filled with delicate formations and of course, the tranquil body of water it is renowned for.

At around one million years old, Lake Cave is relatively young for a cave. But that’s also what makes it so incredible.

“Those much older caves have often had events where there was soot blowing in or volcanic ash or just pollen and dust and everyday stuff, which can make things look a bit grey and mottled,” Andrew says. “In large parts of Lake Cave you’ve got brand new crystal and you get that sparkling off the torch. In a fraction of the time, we’ve got more crystal in many cases, than caves that are three or four hundred million years old.”

One of Andrew’s favourite parts of the cave is the Suspended Table; an impressive sheet of flowstone held up by two columns. The table formed when a slight rise in the acidity of the water caused a whole floor level to completely disappear beneath it.

“I’m in a local caving club and I go into caves that are out in the middle of nowhere,” he says. “The Suspended Table, you just don’t see anything like that. Maybe a tiny version here and there, but a five and a half tonne one, you just don’t see.”

Lake Cave Suspended Table Credit Elements Margaret River
The Suspended Table is unique to Lake Cave. Photo credit Elements Margaret River.

Ancient Waters

Beneath the table, running through the chamber is the water the cave is renowned for; it’s not technically a lake though.

“It should be called Stream Cave,” he says. “It’s the stream that just kept going. It had everything thrown at it, even acidity. If you go right back, only about a million and a half years ago, there would have been no limestone here at all.”

Andrew says the Lake Cave stream could have been flowing anywhere from 200 million to one billion years. Then, in the past million and a half years it was buried. But that didn’t stop it. “It just kept flowing,” he says. “And that ancient stream is still here, it’s just mobbed by sand dune sand.”

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