150 Miles of Salt Mines 650 Below Ground
On Day #19 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited the Strataca salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Strataca is a salt mine museum previously known as the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. The mine is built within one of the world's largest deposits of rock salt – with the salt deposit formations dating to over 275 million years ago. Efforts to dig the first shaft to start mine salt began back in June 1922 and operations of the Carey Salt Company began in 1923. Today the mine is still active, producing ~4 tons of “road salt” every 3 minutes. Strataca is the only underground salt mine in the United States accessible to tourists – so it’s a sight to behold if you like mines and have at least 2 hours to take the tour.
To reach the underground mine you take a ride in a double-deck shaft elevator (that holds fifteen people on each level) that travels down 650 feet in 90 seconds. Once at the mine level there are ~150 miles of mined caverns; many of them still being actively mined. If you’re worried about being claustrophobic – don’t be – since the mine’s ceiling heights range from 11 to 17 feet. Concerned about being in a cold damp cave – there’s no issue there either since the mine temperature stays at ~68 degrees and has a relative humidity of ~45%. The floor of the part of the mine that you’ll visit is even paved – with “Saltcrete” – a material similar to concrete but with salt substituted for the normal sand.
In addition to seeing the mine, and how the mining operation works, there’s also a small exhibit from Underground Vaults & Storage (UV&S) – a company that uses the mine’s security and stable environment to store valuable documents, medical records, TV show masters, film negatives and movie artifacts. The current exhibit includes the Batman and Mr. Freeze costumes from the “Batman & Robin” movie, items from the Superman TV show and Agent Smith’s costume from The Matrix.
As you can see from the photos below – Strataca is an operation that you have to see to really get the feel of the size and scope (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more about the Strataca here are a couple of links to check out:
In addition, back on 5 November 2013 Mike Rowe and the crew of “Dirty Jobs” spent a day in the mines at Strataca and you can see what they found here:
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