Southern Indiana boasts many impressive cavesJune 14, 2019
Column by Brandon Butler
Indiana has more caves than most people probably realize. The Blue River Basin of Southern Indiana is a karst region that’s home to over 1,000 caves. The vast majority of our state’s caves remain undiscovered, unexplored, or at least, uncommercialized. Spelunkers, those whose explore “wild” caves, enjoy the depths of these mystic caverns, yet those of us who are looking for commercial cave tours are blessed with an impressive list of options.
Bluespring Caverns, Squire Boone Caverns, Marengo Cave, Indiana Caverns and Twin Caves are incredible subterranean attractions, and they are an easy drive from any point in the state. Each of Indiana’s “show caves” are special in their own right. Here is a little bit of information about each.
Bluespring Caverns is located in Lawrence County, just south of Bedford. The privately owned property is an easy 80 mile drive from Indianapolis. The highlight of the Bluespring experience is a boat ride on the longest known subterranean river in the United States. Bluespring Caverns contain 21 miles of explored passages, making it the 3rd-longest cave in the state.
Imagine the shock George Colglazier experienced when he woke up one morning in 1940 to find a small pond on his farm had vanished overnight. The pond had drained into a sinkhole, and became the present day entrance into Bluespring Caverns. Proximity to Bloomington and French Lick makes Bluespring Caverns a must see for anyone traveling to these two popular Southern Indiana cities.
Marengo Cave is one of the most well-known tourist caves in the Midwest. Located near the town of Marengo, public tours of the cave have been given since 1883. Samuel Stewart, the original owner of the land on which the entrance to the cave is located, was quick to jump on the commercialization of his natural treasure.
On September 6, 1883, a brother and sister duo, Orris, 11, and Blanche, 15, discovered a sink hole which became the opening of Marengo Cave. Three days later they notified Stewart, who within a couple of months was charging a quarter per person to explore the cave. One unique fact about Marengo Cave is that it is believed to have never been discovered by Native Americans, making the Blanches the first humans to ever enter the system.
There is almost 5 miles of known passageway at Marengo Cave. Pillared Palace, Queen’s Palace, and Crystal Palace are locations inside the cave that boast astounding mineral formations. Cave tours are available year round, though times differ with the seasons. Cabins and camping are available on-site. Marengo Cave was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1984.
Squire Boone Caverns
Few caverns boast the sort of history Squire Boone Caverns can proclaim. They were discovered in 1790 by brothers Squire and Daniel Boone, who are two of the most recognized pioneer explores of early America. Squire once survived an Indian attack by hiding in the caverns. He later settled near the caverns entrance, setting up a mill and raising his family. In 1815, Squire was laid to rest in the caverns and to this day remains deep inside his beloved cave.
Located near the historic town of Corydon, the first capital of Indiana, Squire Boone Caverns is a perfect complement to a day spent exploring the early history of the Hoosier state. A working pioneer village and grist mill are additional attractions on the property.
Upper Twin Caves
Upper Twin Caves is located in Spring Mill State Park, near Mitchell. The park is only about 10 miles south of Bluespring Caverns so combining the two into a day of cave exploration is a great idea. Twin Caves offers a 20-minute boat tour into the cave which goes back about 600 feet. Twin Caves is owned by the state and operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources so it remains the most affordable caving option.
Spring Mill State Park is worth the drive from anywhere in Indiana. The focal point of the unique park is the pioneer village that was founded in the early 1800s because of the availability of year round water running from springs. Donaldson Cave, Bronson Cave and Lower Twin Caves are other caves on the property.
Located in Harrison County near Corydon, Indiana Caverns offers the public an entrance into the Binkley Cave System, the 11th longest in the United States. The cave system has long been recognized as a caving marvel but private landowners restricted all access. Consisting of nearly 35 miles of passageway, Indiana Caverns highlights an underground river, a mountain of breakdown, waterfalls, an array of cave formations and subterranean life. Witnessing blind cave fish and crayfish in their natural environment is sure to be a highlight for any visitors.
Indiana is home to an impressive array of public caves and caverns. Both young and old are enthralled by the underground exploration opportunities. All the cave and cavern locations are clustered in the southern part of the state so it a great excuse to take off with your family on mini-vacation through the southern hills of the Hoosier state.
See you down the trail…
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