According to http://www.caverbob.com/wdeep.htm and http://www.caverbob.com/usadeep.htm, the only cave over 1000m deep in the US is a lava cave in Hawaii. In the continental US the deepest is 505m.

On the other hand in Europe there are two caves over 2000m deep.

The largest cave systems are in the US (Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Why aren't they deeper?

It seems that the limestone layers are thinner and have been tilted less than in Europe. If this is the case, why?

  • $\begingroup$ Hello, and welcome to Earth Science. You aren't clear; how deep is the deepest cave in the continental US, and in Europe? $\endgroup$ – Daniel Griscom Dec 3 '18 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielGriscom Hi, I've updated the question. $\endgroup$ – jinawee Dec 3 '18 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ You might be better off asking what about Spain and Georgia makes them have really deep caves, since the US is no unique is lacking super deep caves. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 5 '18 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ Also large is not the same as deep the deepest cave in the continental US is Lechuguilla Cave in Carlsbad, New Mexico. It is worth noting that the listes for longest or largest caves do not overlap with the deepest, the processes that encourage long caves do not encourage deep caves and vice versa. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 5 '18 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ To form any cave you need a contiguous band of limestone that first is sufficiently deep. Then you need the conditions for the cave to form, somewhat acidic water (there is a lot more to this). This question is partially about the differences in the mountain ranges between Europe and the US. $\endgroup$ – user824 Dec 5 '18 at 16:42

It is related with the large-scale geology of the USA and Europe. The USA is rather normal in this regard, but the particular geological history of Europe allowed the formation of exceptionally deep caves there.

During Mesozoic, Europe was a closed ocean: the Tethys Ocean, with shallow carbonated platforms. The Alpine Orogeny formed the continent and the carbonaceous materials emerged creating mountains with large carbonaceous units. The meteorization and erosion of these carbonates created big karstic systems with deep caves.

Conversely, the USA has a lot of Paleozoic units where the carbonaceous materials are too compact to form deep caves. You may have shallow Mesozoic caves near the surface but Mesozoic units are thinner than some folded zones of Europe.

  • $\begingroup$ @Universal_lerner I did some edits to improve the English and make your main point more clear. Feel free to undo the changes or do further modifications if it doesn't covey what you were trying to say. $\endgroup$ – Camilo Rada Apr 1 '19 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Camilo Rada only I needed to change Paleozoic for Mesozoic the units that are thinner. Thank you very much again. $\endgroup$ – user12525 Apr 1 '19 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Camilo Rada feel free to edit any of my posts in this way. One of the best things for me of this site is to learn english and it is an excellent way for me to see my text remastered. $\endgroup$ – user12525 Apr 7 '19 at 10:22

Deep caves primarily need two things: 1) Very thick or extensive tilted limestone beds so that there is enough bedrock to form a deep cave, and 2) A deep water table so that caves can form by dissolution of the limestone.

Although phreatic caves form beneath the water table, they seldom form to great depth because the water becomes saturated with calcium carbonate early in the groundwater flow system.

A deep water table is promoted by uplift or by incising of rivers into plateaus. There are few areas in the US with these conditions as noted in the other answer.

  • $\begingroup$ Also it is important to notice USA is more arid than Europe. $\endgroup$ – user12525 Apr 2 '19 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ However, there are quite deep caves in Mexico. Sótano de San Agustín is 1250 m deep $\endgroup$ – haresfur Apr 4 '19 at 21:27

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