WORTH THE DRIVE: Ohio Caverns are a subterranean wonderland

7 things to know about Ohio’s largest known cave system just a short drive from here and open for tours year-round.

Looking for an underground getaway? Take a trip to the Ohio Caverns, the largest known cave system in the state.

The caverns, described long ago as the place “where nature carved a fairyland,” are located in West Liberty. Here are 7 things to know about the subterranean wonderland:

Accidental discovery. The caves were accidentally discovered in 1897 by 17-year-old Robert Noffsinger, according to the book, "Ohio Caverns, Ohio's Outstanding Natural Wonder."

The boy, curious about a sinkhole and how rain quickly drained into it, began to dig and discovered a crevice in the limestone bedrock. He wiggled his way inside, becoming the first to enter the caverns.

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Shovels and buckets. Two brothers from Dayton, Al and Ira Smith, bought the land above the caverns in 1922. It took more than three years to excavate passageways within the caverns using only shovels and buckets before the brothers could begin offering tours.

 

Constant temperature. It doesn't matter if its sweltering or below freezing outside, the temperature inside the Ohio Caverns is a constant 54 degrees year-round. The Ohio Caverns website says the air inside is cleaner than the air outside because it is filtered by the water that continues to form the caves.

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Deep down in the ground. There are two miles of surveyed passageways according to the website. They range in depth from 30 to 103 feet.

Royal stalactite. The Crystal King, located on the Natural Wonder Tour, is the oldest in Ohio. Known for its natural white color, the 200,000 year-old stalactite is nearly 5-feet-long.

State landmarks. Ohio Caverns is the largest known cave system in the state and was designated an Ohio Natural Landmark in 2000. In 2004, the caverns became an Ohio Historical Landmark.

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Take a tour. The caverns are open year-round and offer three tours. From May 1 to Sept. 30, visitors can take the Natural Wonder Tour, the Limestone Tour or the Historic Tour. The hour-long Natural Wonder tour offers walks through crystal formations. Step back into 1897 on the Historic Tour and see the cave as it was discovered in 1897. The Limestone Tour is wheelchair accessible and lasts 25 minutes.

During the Winter Tour, from Oct. 1 to April 30, visitors will walk through historical and natural wonder areas and learn about historical and geographical aspects of the cavern.

WANT TO GO? 

What: The Ohio Caverns

Where: 2210 East State Route 245, West Liberty

Hours: The Ohio Caverns are open all year but closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas days. During the summer session, May 1- Sept. 30, the site is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The last tour starts at 5 p.m. During the winter session, Oct. 1- April 30, the site is open from 10 a.m. – 5 pm. The last tour starts at 4 p.m.

Admission: Adults: $17; Child (5-12): $9 and children under 4 are free

During the summer session, a Combo Tour is available: Adults: $29; Child (5-12): $15 and children under 4 are free.

More info: Website

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