Caving (or spelunking) is a pretty intense activity that requires a lot of experience, knowledge, equipment, and guts. Thankfully, there are such things as “commercial” or “show” caves in the world, including Ohio, that allow us everyday folk the opportunity to catch a small glimpse of the majestic underground world that we so rarely get to explore. Down there, it’s a world of beautiful crystals and unbelievable rock formations.
The Ohio Caverns,
located in West Liberty
in Champaign County
in Southwest Ohio
is the largest of Ohio’s caves (the largest geode in the world, however, is located in the Crystal Cave
of Put In Bay
). For a charge of $14 per adult (a good splurge to make), you are able to take a tour of this wondrous show cave almost any day of the year (they are closed only on Christmas and Thanksgiving). Tours are typically every 20 minutes, so reservations are not usually required. Depending on the size of your group, the tour will on average last about 45 minutes, spanning a mile of pathways.
The Ohio Caverns are certainly a sight to see! The caves have been owned and operated by the same family since 1925 (and were discovered a few decades prior). However, the caves have existed for an estimated 250,000 years, and were formed by glaciers that came through and essentially cut through the rocks (that’s the basic, non scientific explanation). After the discovery, mud from the cave was carefully dug out and it was then opened for tours!
Cement walkways and stairs were added, as well as lighting fixtures; the rest of the cave is completely natural. This means taller folks will be required to duck their heads during certain portions of the tour! Those visiting the caves are also asked to not touch anything while underground. This is because the oils on human hands do a great deal of damage and discoloration to the beautiful white crystals, and because many of the crystals and rocks are very fragile they can not afford to be broken! Thankfully, the tour guides will give you a “sample crystal” to touch at the beginning of the tour to get your curiosity out of the way.
Another fun fact about the Ohio Caverns is that the temperature in the caves is constantly 54 degrees, giving you a great place to cool off in the summer and a nice comfortably warm place in the winter months. At one point during the tour, the guide will flip a switch that will turn off all lights in the cave, leaving you with how it is naturally – completely and literally pitch dark (so much so that you cannot even see your own hand in front of your face).