The Colossal Er Wang Dong Cave System

Published November 23, 2013
Updated September 27, 2018

The Er Wang Dong cave system is really huge. Like 500,000 square feet of huge. So huge it has its own weather system huge.

Er Wang Dong Entrance

The Er Wang Dong cave system is huge. Really, really huge. And until recently, the massive system of caves had yet to be discovered.

A group of expert cavers and professional photographers recently explored the Er Wang Dong cave system for the first time during a month-long expedition to the Chongquing province in China. Located near the rural village Ranjiagou, one can enter the huge, complex cave system by walking, swimming or abseiling into the caves.

While some of the surface-level caves have been used by nitrate miners in the past, the 15-person crew discovered many new caves that had never before seen the light of day. The cavers were particularly excited to discover that some of the caves were so massive that they contained their own weather systems, complete with wispy clouds and thick fog. The clouds occur within the caves when humidity rises into the cavern’s colder air.

Traditional Look

Source: Aria

The clouds were so thick in places that they completely obscured the caves’ ceilings. First-ever photographs showcase the minuscule cavers navigating unbelievable caverns overgrown with lush vegetation, trees and brush in a scene that looks more like a mystical destination than it does a natural feature of the environment.

Er Wang Dong Wispy Clouds

Source: Daily Mail

Huge Pillar

Source: Daily Mail

Cavers also discovered Cloud Ladder Hall, a huge cathedral-like space within the cave system that measures more than 500,000 square feet with a roof at least 250 meters high. Like some of the other large caves, Cloud Ladder Hall was full of thick fog-like clouds that reduced visibility and gave the massive space an otherworldly feel. The cave is one of the largest chambers in the entire world.

Er Wang Dong Rappelling

Source: Daily Mail


Source: Daily Mail

During the expedition, cavers noted dangerously high water levels on multiple occasions, especially when it rained in surrounding towns. Researchers note that eventually many of the caves will become dangerous and impassible in light of rising water levels. Nevertheless, the size and complexity of the Er Wang Dong system can’t deter the 15-person team from continuing to explore the area.

Er Wang Dong Caves In China

Source: Daily Mail

River Uankou Dong

Source: Daily Mail

Kiri Picone
Kiri Picone holds a B.A. in English and creative writing from Pepperdine University and has been writing for various digital publishers for more than 10 years.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
Citation copied
Cite This Article
Picone, Kiri. "The Colossal Er Wang Dong Cave System.", November 23, 2013, Accessed June 25, 2024.