I am not the rugged sort. The most outdoorsy thing I do is drink on patios. Despite this, I still like to try things outside my comfort zone. I won’t be white-water rafting anytime soon, so I look for activities that are somewhere in-between.
An example of my communing with nature would be a recent visit to Olentangy Indian Caverns. Going 55-feet into the Earth makes me slightly nervous (fracking, anyone?), but these caverns are too awesome to ignore. First of all, they’re literally millions of years old. They were formed by the force of an underground river cutting through solid limestone rock which became the maze of beautiful winding passages they are today.
The caverns are also rich in Indian lore and history. There is evidence the Wyandotte Indians used these caverns as shelter from the elements and their rivals, the Delaware Indians. There’s even a “Council Chamber” believed to have been used for tribal ceremonies. Be sure not to miss the large, rock table that was used as the Council Table. Per the official website, the first white man believed to have entered the caverns was J. M. Adams, a member of a westbound wagon train that camped nearby in 1821. During the night, one of his oxen broke loose and wandered off. In the morning the ox was found dead at the bottom of the entrance to the ancient Indian cavern. After exploring the entrance, Adams carved his name and date on the wall. The carving still remains but is hard to see due to being partially covered by Flowstone.
But wait! There’s more! Various artifacts have been found in the caverns, such as tools for making arrows and other stone implements from as recent as 1810. These items were found when the caverns were opened, and some are on display in the Caverns Museum. It really feels like a maze down there, so grab a map, and follow the markers to Indian Lover’s Bench, Battleship Rock, The Crystal Room, and Fat Man’s Misery, which is a passage leading to Cathedral Hall and Bell Tower room…105-feet below the earth’s surface! Beyond are passages and rooms still unexplored. A fourth level where an underground river is flowing to the Olentangy River has been partially explored but not opened to the public.
A surprising element was the drop in temperature as I descended down into the cavern. It’s 54 degrees, so you might want to layer up. You should also wear appropriate shoes. I can attest, the natural condensation and moisture makes for a slippery bedrock. It can also be muddy, depending on weather, so leave the brand-new white shoes at home–unless you like to live dangerously, of course.
The caves aren’t the only thing you can do. There’s also gem mining, an animal encounter, mini golf, nature trails, a gift shop, and plenty of other outdoor activities.
There are also various events held throughout the year like yoga and special tours. Adventurous types should look into the new “flashlight tour” coming this fall. The main lights will be turned off(eep) and visitors will explore the caverns with provided flashlights. This tour will be offered every Saturday in September and October at 6:00 p.m., and children must be at least eight-years-old to participate. Online reservations are required, so claim yourself a space before it completely books up.
Olentangy Indian Caverns is located at 1779 Home Road, Delaware, OH, 43015. Hours are Monday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. through October 31. Admission is $9.95 for Adults (13 and up) , $6.95 for children (3 to 12 years old) , and children under two are free.