Road Trip Discoveries: Seneca Caverns

by Amy Kraft on September 16, 2013

Caves-inside

“We’re lost.”

“We’re not lost.”

“This can’t be the right road. Do you see anything besides corn?”

“GPS has is just up the road about a mile or so.”

“But there hasn’t even been a sign for it.”

“I’m 75% confident we’re in the right place.”

Caves-outside

On the long leg of our drive back east, we were looking for a roadside diversion, and settled on the idea of climbing 100 feet underground. Seneca Caverns is a short diversion from I-80 (yes, through lots of cornfields) in Bellevue, Ohio. Nearly 150 years ago, two boys were hunting rabbits with their dog. When both dog and rabbit disappeared and the boys went searching for them, they discovered what is now known as Seneca Caverns, “The Caviest Cave in the USA,” a series of underground passageways that can take you up to 110 feet underground.

Caves-guide

You enter the caverns on a guided tour. There are seven “rooms” connected by stone passageways that have been built over the years. There are some tight squeezes and a few great opportunities to knock yourself unconscious on low rocks, but overall the climb was manageable, even with a 3-year-old. (I didn’t have to worry about Olive. She and another 8-year-old led the climb.) On the day that we went, we were able to go 80 feet down before we hit the water line. It was cool to reach down at the bottom and touch the crystal clear, icy cold water.

Caves-waterline

We saw shell fossils just as soon as we got underground. There were also great bits of history along the tour, particularly when we entered a room full of inscriptions made a hundred years ago. The tour wouldn’t have been complete without seeing a bat (the one that was taking a nap in the gift shop roof totally didn’t count), and we got up close and personal with one on our climb back out.

Caves-bat

I loved this as a weird roadside stop. You should be in reasonably good climbing shape, and not at all claustrophobic. You also should not be afraid to get muddy, or afraid of bats. I confess I started to freak out a bit underground because I started to think about things I read about fracking in Ohio, but I forced myself to put it out of my head and had fun.

The best part of the trip was the happy, muddy kids that then fell sound asleep in the car.

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