Marengo Cave

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Our daughter and son-in-law volunteered to act as chaperons for their church’s jr./sr. youth group’s outing to Holiday World. We were enlisted to take care of their two youngest, Gabby and Ian. Don and I had been planning to take them on an outing for awhile so this seemed like a good time to do just that. I gave our daughter a list of the clothing articles I wanted her to bring for each of the little ones when she dropped them off but I forbade her to tell them where they were going.

Both were pretty excited when they arrived. In fact, Gabby had been up since 2:30 that morning. Wow! The pressure was on not to disappoint. We made sure they weren’t hungry, had their sneakers on, and their jackets with them even though it was expected to reach 90 degrees that day.

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Into the truck we piled amidst questions of “Where are we going?” and “How long before we get there?” I told them to settle in as we had to drive over an hour before we’d arrive. The two proceeded to be restlessly silly in the backseat while Don and I enjoyed the scenic back roads to our destination.

Gabby & Ian

Gabby & Ian

Upon our arrival to Marengo Cave, Gabby and Ian still weren’t certain where they were at but Gabby did make out the word cave on the entrance sign. “Yes,” we told them, “we’re taking you on a tour of a cave.” Both got excited. They’d never been in a cave before.

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Marengo Cave is a U.S. National Landmark. It was discovered in 1883 by two siblings, 15 year old Blanche Hiestand and her brother Orris, 11. They entered the cave through a sink hole in the woods, each carrying nothing but a single candle to light their way. Within a week of their discovery, tours were being given by the landowner for 50 cents a head. Marengo is one of the largest caves in Indiana. 

Declared a National Landmark in 1984, it is one of the most profusely decorated caverns. Two tours are offered, each covering a different section of the cave system. The Crystal Palace Tour is the shortest. About one third of a mile long walk through beautiful cave rooms, including the Crystal Palace from whence it got it’s name, it’s an easy 40 minute or so walk.

The second is called the Dripstone Trail Tour. This tour covers approximately 1 mile and takes about 1 hour to cover. It is known for its various formations such as the sodastraws, stalagmites, and stalactites. 

We chose to take the grandkids on each of the tours beginning with the longer one first. Since I had already purchased our tickets online, and since we’d also arrived early in the day, the wait for our guide wasn’t a long one.

Path to the Dripstone Trail     Cave entrance to the Dripstone Trail

After a brief introduction and an explanation as to why we weren’t to touch the cave walls nor formations, we donned our jackets then proceeded along the wooded trail to the Dripstone Trail cave entrance.

A drapery formation

A drapery formation

Drinking vessels used in 1800 cave tours. Natural cistern behind them.

Drinking vessels used in 1800 cave tours. Natural cistern behind them.

“Prison cell” formation

Wind tunnel

Wind tunnel

Ripples on cave floor  Gabby

Ancient river bed

Ancient river bed

Since we had a short wait between our last tour and the next, we bought Gabby and Ian treats and let them explore the gift shop until our tour was announced. They really enjoyed looking at all the geodes, crystals, amethysts and fossils in the store.

Ian & Gabby both chose crystals for souvenirs.

Ian & Gabby both chose crystals for souvenirs.

Soon we were called for our next tour. Gabby and Ian were both enthusiastically looking forward to it as they really enjoyed the first tour. It’s hard to say what was their favorite formation or cave feature as they talked animatedly about several of the things they’d seen. As for Don and I, we felt  Marengo Cave rated up there with Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. We would highly recommend it to anyone visiting southern Indiana. Be sure to wear comfortable enclosed walking shoes as some sections of the cave floor was slippery or muddy. Also, bring a lightweight jacket. The cave is a constant 52 degrees year round. A nice reprieve for us on a hot Summer’s day.

The Penny Ceiling. Both kids thought this was nifty. The coins are heaved upward by cave visitors where they adhere to the sticky substance on the ceiling. Ian & Gabby depleted my coin purse.

The Penny Ceiling. Both kids thought this was nifty. The coins are heaved upward by cave visitors where they adhere to the sticky substance on the ceiling. Ian & Gabby depleted my coin purse.

The Grand Hall. This huge cavernous room once was the site for square dances.

The Grand Hall. This huge cavernous room once was the site for square dances.

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In the 1800's on into the early 1900's church services were held here.

In the 1800’s on into the early 1900’s church services were held here.

Sunday morning church services were held here in the 1800's. The preacher would stand above his flock from this rock.

The preacher would stand above his flock from this rock  where he gave his Sunday sermons.

“Girl on a swing”
So called because of the optical illusion it made on the cave wall.

Elephant head close up

Elephant head close up

Lights were turned off near the old sinkhole entrance to show how dark it was  when the brave children first discovered the cave.

Lights were turned off near the old sinkhole entrance to show how dark it was when the brave children first discovered the cave.

Plaque dedicated to siblings Blanche (15) & Orris (11) Hiestand

This volcan formation holds a plaque dedicated to siblings Blanche (15) & Orris (11) Hiestand

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“Bacon” formation (backlighted to highlight it)

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We topped off our venture by taking the grandchildren out to eat at Cracker Barrel. Surprisingly our picky eaters ate everything on their plates. Must have been the exercise and cave air huh? Afterwards we drove over the Ohio River bridge into Kentucky. The river was an ugly muddy color with lots of debris floating in it. I’m sure this was caused from the flooding. Gabby thought it was cool seeing just the tops of leafy green treetops sticking out above the water and Ian liked watching the barge making it’s way upstream headed to parts unknown.

Old drinking water cistern. Not a good idea due to the amount of magnesium in water. It'll give you diarrhea.

Old drinking water cistern. Not a good idea due to the amount of magnesium in water. It’ll give you diarrhea.

On our way back to the rig, we stopped once more to treat the kids to an ice cream. They’d earned it.

Hopefully they’ll have good memories of the day they spent with grandpa and grandma spelunking.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid………………….

200' below the surface. Gabby leads the way out

200′ below the surface. Gabby leads the way out

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Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Marengo Cave

  1. What an awesome day! And your pictures “in the dark” are wonderful. Gabby and Ian will have lots of nice memories from their adventures underground…

    • Gay, my photos were pretty much hit & miss. One little movement on my part & they blurred. All said though, the grandchildren raved about it so I believe Don & I succeeded in making it a memorable day for them.

  2. Sounds like they had a great time. I’m sure they will have many memories of this visit with grandma and grandpa.

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