Southern Indiana is best known for its scenic rolling hills, caverns and caves. Glacial melt during the Ice Age shaped the area around Marengo on its way to the Ohio River. Marengo Cave has been developing for centuries and is still considered to be in its evolution process. Rapid water flow through parts of this Indiana attraction has created icicle-looking calcite deposits called flow stones. The formations inside Marengo Cave are breathtakingly beautiful, and spelunking is a major pastime in the Hoosier State. A family adventure touring the caves and caverns near Kentucky is a great summer day trip from Indianapolis.
Marengo Cave was discovered after school on September 6, 1883. Fifteen-year-old Blanche Hiestand and her brother Orris ventured into a seemingly endless sinkhole. In an Alice in Wonderland-like scene, the siblings continued deeper and deeper underground until they found themselves in a large cave room. Their candle-lit exploration opened up a study of the area that revealed several previously hidden passageways and rooms that now make up Marengo Cave. Over time, more discoveries were made in the large cave system.
Today visitors can choose from two different guided tours of Marengo Cave. The longer tour takes about 70 minutes and leads visitors through areas of the cave called the Music Hall and Pulpit Rock. Penny Ceiling is a shiny bronze collection of pennies stuck to the soft limestone overhead. Guests are encourages to toss change in the air and watch it stick to the Penny Ceiling. It’s a small moneymaker withinthis Indiana business. In 199, all pennies were removed, over 90,000 coins in total and the money added up to $3,855.56. Many curious Hoosiers go on both tours offered of this unique day trip destination. The Crystal Palace Tour lasts for 45-minutes, and features a spectacular light presentation, views of many stalagmites, stalactites and especially flowstone formations.
Over a century after the Hiestand siblings discovered Marengo Cave, it was designated as a National Natural Landmark. Guests no longer have to enter through the mysterious-looking sinkhole that led to the cave’s discovery. Two man-made entrances now allow better access for tours and spelunking adventures. Despite several years of abuse to one cave, including graffiti and rock removal, the area is believed to be in near perfect condition now.
One of the most deceptive parts of Marengo Cave is the Mirror Lake. A reflection on the cave’s ceiling fives visitors the illusion that it’s a deep water deposit. The appearance of the deep water is of course spoiled by splashing around a bit. In actuality, Mirror Lake only measures a few inches in depth. Another mysterious body of water to check out on a day trip from the Circle City is the nearby Lost River in Orangeville. This unusual attraction actually disappears in sunny weather, and emerges from the ground after heavy rains. The water actually flows through caverns and caves for approximately 23 miles.
Don’t miss the countless other day trip destinations in southern Indiana. O’Bannon Woods State Park is located just one county west of Marengo, offering a relaxing and historically educating experience outdoors. Spencer County is also just a short drive from Marengo Cave, and it’s home to Doctor Ted’s Musical Marvels in Dale, Lincoln State Park and Lincoln Living Historical Farm in Lincoln City and Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus. Along the route to Marengo Cave, several other day trip destinations can be added to the list of must-see attractions. Hoosier National Forest is perhaps the largest Indiana Park in the area, just to the north of Marengo Cave the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans in Columbus, the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour and the Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park can be visited on the road trip to Marengo Cave as well.
Escape from Indianapolis for an afternoon and take a day trip to southern Indiana, where fun and adventure are practically unavoidable. Fees for admission vary depending on the length of each tour. Canoes are also available for rent along the Blue river that runs through Marengo. Hours of operation vary by season.