As I wipe a drip of summer sweat from my face, I hear the tour leader at the Ohio Caverns near West Liberty, Ohio call my group number for the Historic Tour. While I was already excited about exploring this hidden Ohio gem, it was even more delightful to hear that the caverns stay a consistent 54-degrees all year. Thank you, Mother Nature for the natural air conditioning!
A bus takes me to the cave entrance for one of two tours offered. The Historic Tour provides a basic understanding of stalactites and stalagmites, the history of the caverns and how they were discovered.
The second tour is the Natural Wonder Tour that explores a second cave route and focuses on geology, the formations of crystals and how natural caverns occur. Combining the tours into one visit provides the best experience for understanding and exploring the cave formations.
The cool caverns differ from caves in that they do not have a natural entry point. This is how the temperature remains consistent and also why they are so dark as I stroll 103-feet below ground.
The Ohio Caverns are a mystical maze of natural wonder discovered in 1897 by a teenage boy who stumbled on a small sinkhole. Fueled by curiosity he began digging and eventually stumbled on what is one of Ohio’s greatest natural treasures.
Stalagmites and stalactites, some up to 500,000 years old decorate the walls and ceilings of the caves. The corridors are narrow, the lighting is dim and for tall cave-goers, prepare to bend down as you make your way through some of the passages. The physical experience is the closest I might ever get to being a real cave explorer. Even children in the tour groups found the odd and beautiful geological formations fascinating.
I marvel at the tiger-striping on the limestone walls created by various mineral deposits. Iron deposits make the vibrant oranges and reds while manganese creates hues of blue. The magnificent crystal formations take many shapes from small stalactites above my head that appear barely bigger than a raindrop to ones that look like daggers and straws. The most impressive crystal on the cave tour is the 200,000-year old Crystal King, the granddaddy of them all which is the largest stalactite in Ohio.
More than 60,000 visitors a year make new discoveries and learn about the crystal wonders hidden below the ground at Ohio Caverns. The caverns are open all year. For visitors who want some natural elements to take home, there is a gold mining trough on the grounds that kids enjoy before they leave.