Marengo Cave: An Exciting Day Trip in Indiana

While living in Evansville, Ind., I have tried a few day trips from there to nearby places. Marengo Caves was the best of them. Anyone coming to or living in Indiana or the tri-state area nearby should never miss this unusual, utterly stunning and very well maintained natural attraction. Marengo Caves is indeed the most popular natural attraction in Indiana and a U.S. National Landmark.

A little history: Although a natural attraction, a little knowledge about its discovery would spice up your trip as it did mine. Imagine a 15-year-old girl in the year 1883 who was a cook in Marengo Academy in the small town of Marengo. One day she overheard some school boys planning to explore a deep sink hole near their school. The adventurous spirit of the 15-year-old girl was aroused. She went straight to home, took her 11-year-old brother and quickly set out on an adventure. She took some candles and hiked up the hill past the cemetery to reach the sinkhole. The two of them went down to the bottom. There they found a small opening and, ignoring the mud and slime, they climbed down the steep slippery slope and found themselves in a large chamber. By the flickering light of their candles, they saw a place of unusual beauty. It was very hard to climb back. Soon after this discovery, the owner of the land opened this cave to the public.

What to see: People of all ages and physical fitness will find something to explore in the Marengo Caves. There are two walking tours: Crystal Palace and Dripstone Trail. The first lasts for 40 minutes and the other for 70 minutes. For small children and elderly people the first trip is better although both of them are actually easy tours. Both the tours first take you to the Mirror Lake. You will see why it is named so. It is difficult to differentiate the water from the actual formations on the roof that are reflected in it. The Crystal palace and Queen’s Palace are aptly named. The inside of the cave does look like a beautifully decorated palace at times. They show a short video to relive the past. You can see the hole from where the children crawled inside. You will also be shown how the cave looked at that time in the light of a single candle. In both the tours you can see the variety of formations: stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, cave popcorn, flowstones, etc. From a distance, the draperies do look like a piece of cloth hanging. At a point the stalagmites on the roof looks like New York City upside down.

What to do: Taking one of the walking tours is the most usual and popular option, but there are other things to do too. You can also crawl into the cave as the little children did. They will provide the gear. All you have to do is crawl inside yet undeveloped portions of the cave, get muddy and enjoy. You can also learn caving techniques. Waterfall Crawl is another even wetter adventure for enthusiasts. Children can also have fun at gemstone mining. This is outside the cave. You have to buy a bag of gemstones hidden in sand. And they can go through the process of mining as the early miners used to and learn about mining and gems in the process. There is also the Crawl for the kids who want to experience cave crawling without getting wet and muddy. Adults can also join in the fun.

Where to stay: There are log cabins and also camping area if you plan to stay at night.

The gift shop is also very beautiful with stone jewelries and decorative items and is worth spending some time in. You can’t take food inside the cave. It is better to head toward the town for lunch.

The cave is really a place of astonishing beauty, but I must praise the way it is maintained and made accessible. This is a day trip that will surprise you even after you have read and seen the pictures and know what to expect.

My own experience

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