Business of the Month » August 2022
Who would have thought that finding a sinkhole in a field would turn into one of Ohio's top tourist destinations? Celebrating a 125-year anniversary on August 17, that is exactly what Ohio Caverns has become and if you haven't visited "America's Most Colorful Caverns," located at 2210 State Route 245 E. in West Liberty, then you are missing out!
In August of 1897, a farm boy was investigating the disappearance of water into a sinkhole in a field and discovered a grouping of underground passageways. After digging down a few feet, he uncovered an opening to a cave that was formed out of soluble limestone bedrock. This cave, currently estimated to be approximately 400 million years old, likely started forming during the Ice Age. Ground water dripping through the cave's ceiling formed stalactites, stalagmites and a mineral coating all over the cavern's walls, floors and ceiling. Not long after discovery, the Caverns opened for business. In 1925, a more geologically interesting section of the cave was uncovered, and the original opening was closed. Today, the Natural Wonder Cavern Tour is done through this section and showcases a more colorful scenery and higher density of stalactite and stalagmite formations. Guests follow a winding path overlooking the beautiful valley and enter through a sinkhole entrance opened in 2012.
Since this time, Ohio Caverns has attracted visitors from all over the state, country and world. It is home to Ohio's largest known cave systems, with over 2 miles of passageways and depth ranging from 30 to 103 feet. Inside, amongst a wide array of formations and features that come in all different colors - ranging from blue to orange to reddish black, is the Crystal King. The Crystal King is the most famous formation in the Caverns and one of the largest and most perfectly formed stalactites in history - at almost 5 feet long, 400 pounds and over 200,000 years old!
In addition to the popular Natural Wonder Cavern Tour, you can also take the Historic Tour. This tour includes parts of the caverns that were originally viewed by visitors from 1897-1925 and then was re-opened in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of its discovery. Through August 31, in celebration of their 125-year anniversary, you can take the special Discovery Lantern Tour. This limited-edition lantern led tour takes you through the Historic Tour of the caverns, as it was originally seen before electric was added. The Discovery Lantern Tour is only offered once a day and is by reservation only. Our Chamber team and some of our board members were able to take the very first Discovery Lantern Tour and we highly recommend it! Emily Walters, Logan County Visitors Bureau Director, says "We are so lucky to have an attraction like Ohio Caverns in Logan County. The Caverns provide a unique experience for all ages to enjoy. If you get the opportunity to take the 125th anniversary tour, do it! The lantern lead tour was different than anything I have ever experienced, and I learned so many things I never knew about the caverns. Congratulations to 125 years!" Cavern tours are available every day from 9am – 5pm from May through September, and from 10am – 4pm from October through April (closed Thanksgiving & Christmas Day). The cavern remains a steady 54 degrees year-round, allowing for a cool retreat during the hot summer months and a warm escape during the cold winter.
In addition to their big anniversary, Ohio Caverns has been recognized for several other accomplishments. They were recently awarded National Speleological Society Outstanding Landowner-Caver Relationship Award, TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Award (awarded to the top 10% of ALL attractions worldwide) and Logan County’s "Best Attraction" Award. They credit a lot of their success and worldwide recognition to "word of mouth" advertising. JD Harshfield, Ohio Caverns Manager, shares that his team works very hard to make sure every visitor that comes through the door feels welcomed and appreciated and they hope visitors leave Ohio Caverns feeling a sense of excitement and wonder from what they just experienced. The team also goes to great lengths to continually preserve the cavern, so future generations can see it how it was viewed when first discovered.
Another big accomplishment, though not an award, is the Ohio Caverns Solar Field that was completed in 2017. The project, a collaboration with OGW Energy Resources, includes 160 Ultra high-efficiency panels. These panels are estimated to offset approximately 100% of Ohio Caverns yearly kWh usage and have several environmental benefits – one of which being the equivalent to 15.6 tons of waste recycled instead of going to landfill each year.
Guests can take advantage of complimentary Solar-Powered Electric Vehicle charging stations while touring the caverns. Other amenities include a 35 acre well maintained park located directly above the caverns where kids can play on the playground and families can enjoy many different picnic areas. The gift shop contains a variety of unique souvenirs, including rocks, fossils and even gem mining (a favorite among kids).
Annually, Ohio Caverns sees around 65,000 visitors and walk in traffic drives a lot of this business. Thankfully, they have been fortunate to have great attendance over the last decade, even through the pandemic. Looking forward, the team is excited to be welcoming back more school field trips throughout the next fall and spring seasons. For many students, this is a trip that is highly sought after but the pandemic put a hold on them.
If Ohio Caverns sounds like a place you’d love to work at – you’re in luck. They are looking for Cavern Tour Guides and Gift Shop staff! You can fill out an application online at ohiocaverns.com/jobs or by stopping in any day.
For more information about Ohio Caverns, especially how you can take a tour yourself – please visit ohiocaverns.com . You can also find them on the following social media sites: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. For more direct info, you can contact the staff by calling (937) 465-4017 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Please join us in congratulating Ohio Caverns for being the Logan County Chamber August Business of the Month and for their 125-year anniversary!