Ohio Caverns celebrated the National Day of Caves and Karst on June 6. Although some European countries have been celebrating a designated day for caves and karst, this was the first such observance in the United States. While most know what a cave is, some may not know that a karst is an area of limestone rock that contains sinkholes, ravines and underground rivers.
The Ohio Caverns staff hopes the National Caves Association’s designation of this holiday results in more people wanting to explore the caverns beneath Champaign and Logan counties.
“The goal is to get people out and see what is in their back yard and learn something,” said Eric Evans, president and owner of Ohio Caverns.
The caverns were discovered in 1897, and since then tourists and locals have been visiting what is now called the Historical Tour. After renovations and excavations were finished in 2012, the Natural Wonder Tour opened. The renovation added a ramp entrance, allowing wheelchair accessibility to a portion of the cavern.
Evans said caves provide benefits to scientific study, including animal biology, tracking weather trends and cancer research through the study of bacteria.
The privately-owned park gives one-hour tours through the active cave system, where underground water continues to carve new passages and grow new stalactite and stalagmite formations. According to Evans, the cavern tours are not only spectacular, but also educational. Guests will see and learn about unique crystal formations including the Crystal King, the largest stalactite in Ohio, and “historical graffiti” from miners.
If guests become too hot in the summer weather, the cave can be refuge with its constant 54-degree temperature.
Guests can visit the gift shop, where the park has for display and sale 57 tons of rocks and geodes recently obtained from Soledad, Brazil.
The 35-acre park has areas for picnicking, too.
Located a few miles east of West Liberty on the Champaign and Logan County line at 2210 E. state Route 245, Ohio Caverns is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 1 to Sept. 30 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 1 to April 30. It is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information, call 937-465-4017 or visit ohiocaverns.com.
Shane Black is a contributor to this newspaper.