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Olentangy Indian Caverns
by Stormy on July 30, 2007

Running a commercial cave operation is a hard thing. You want to convince people to come visit your operation because it's exciting and better than the hole in the ground that your neighbor owns. Truth in advertising can be a tricky animal to wrangle.

On the way from Ohio to Indiana I figured I'd stop at a couple of caves to see how things are underground in Ohio. The first cave I gave a shot was the Olentangy Indian Caverns, a historic cave used for centuries by the Wyandotte Indians as they migrated between their stalking grounds. The tour was cheap compared to many other commercial operations. The reason for this became evident very quickly. You just can't mask "cheesy". The tour guide gave us the rules going into the cave. The primary rule was that, "You carry plant spores on your hands. Don't touch anything because the spores and the oils will kill the fossils." Fossils? Aren't fossils already dead? I'll give him this one. He's got a group of twenty. He's trying to go fast. He meant formations and fossils came out. Okay. The cave itself is not all that much. It's pretty small. The passages tend to be narrow and tall, characteristic of fissures. The guide said that we would go down 105 feet below the surface and travel a quarter of a mile. Distance down is hard to judge without having a reference point directly above you. The distance of a quarter mile about 1300 feet is more realistic to measure as you walk. But as it turned out, Olentangy is not 1300 feet of cave. It's 650 feet of cave. And we got to walk it in and then back out. There was a lot of moss and algae on the walls, all growing happily under the warm floodlights. Most caves mitigate this, but in Olentangy this invasion is promoted and some places have a thick carpet of green. So much for not touching anything with spores on your hands. Our tour guide told us that the land the cave is on was sold to its discoverer in 1867. This man dug the cave out and made it accessible. Then in the cave there is text chiseled on the wall that reads "1834". People were split looking at it. It could be 1884 that's been modified. Or just a poorly carved 1884. Either way, the 1834 theory does not seem to make sense considering when the guide said the cave was discovered. The tour guide pointed out one of the drains and said that there was a flood in recent history that washed large boulders into the hole and blocked it off, but they know that the passage goes down 500 feet below the surface to an underground lake. He also pointed out a dark hole in the wall beyond the commercial route and said that the cave continues for another 3.5 miles in that direction. Hmmm... Big cave. Being a skeptical marmot and knowing that Ohio is not a well known cave state, I pulled out a list of long and deep caves in the United States. It shows all caves at least a mile long and all caves at least 400 feet deep. I wasn't really surprised not to find Olentangy on that list. The only cave listed was Ohio Caverns. It's about three miles long. Sounds like a good cave to go to next. Don't go to Olentangy Indian Caverns unless you're just trying to bump up the number of caves you've visited, no matter what they're like.

Stormy tries to see how good the view from the top of the Olentangy sign is.
(taken by Max on July 30, 2007)
The facility is actually a little carnival of climbing walls, gold panning, a frontier city playground, putt putt golf and other sideshow attractions.
(taken by Max on July 30, 2007)
The main formation in the cave is a dinged up flowstone overhang that terminates in broken draperies.
(taken by Max on July 30, 2007)
Moss grows freely in the cave.
(taken by Max on July 30, 2007)
In fact, contrary to accepted cave management techniques, the thick growth is promoted!
(taken by Max on July 30, 2007)
L.M. Wells may well have been in the cave before it was discovered.
(taken by Max on July 30, 2007)

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