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The Belknap Caves were formed nearly 80,000 years ago by lava flows. Lava flows from volcanic eruptions tend to become channeled into a few main streams. The overflows of lava from these streams often cool and solidify, creating stacked layers of lava around the flow. After many hours or days, the lava melts downward, into the ground, giving the tube a taller, narrower cross-section. After the eruption subsides and the flows harden, these lava tubes become a cave, sometimes with remnants of the ebbing lava flow preserved.

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