The other day, I mentioned that B.B. and I were in French Lick, Indiana. The real reason why we were in southern Indiana was to go and visit Marengo Caves, a U.S. National Landmark. This cave was originally discovered by two children named Orris and Blanche Hiestand in 1883. Accounts vary slightly, but one version is that they stumbled upon the cave when chasing a rabbit who ran into a hole that turned out to be a large cave. Marengo Caves is an impressive cave that has different layers formed from underground flowing water.
B.B. and I decided to go on both tours and started off with the 1 hour Dripstone Trail Tour followed by the Crystal Palace Tour (although it’s all part of the same cave system, if you are only looking to do one tour, I would recommend sticking with the Dripstone Tour, even though the staff tell you that it’s a different experience, it’s a longer tour and you see a lot of different things. If you decide to do both tours, I would recommend going on the Crystal Palace tour first). When you enter the cave, one of the first things that you notice is the temperature. The average cave temperature is 52 degrees F (or about 11 degrees C) — a welcome change in temperature considering that the outside temperature was muggy 104 degrees F (40 degrees C); I brought a sweater as suggested on the website — and I was glad that I did. The cave was quite dark and no natural light was visible in the cave other than from the entrance. All of the lighting in the cave came from small flood lights that have been set to run through the cave.
The cave tour was really interesting with all of the visible stalactite and stalagmite formations. We learned a lot of interesting geological facts. For example, on average, it takes about 100 years for a stalactite to grow one inch; we were not allowed to touch any of the formations because the natural oils from the human body can stunt the growth of these formations. There were also helictites, which are formations that grow in different directions and defy the laws of gravity. We did not see any animals, but we were told that there are bats and a species of fish that is naturally blind.
Another interesting part about the tour was the large cavernous areas that was enough space for several dozens of people. I couldn’t help thinking that it would be a great place to have a live concert of some sort. The tour guide did say that at one point, people convened in the cave for town hall style meetings and the occasional square dance. The other interesting part of the tour was the penny ceiling where we were allowed to throw some pennies onto the mud ceiling, where it would stick (the money is collected every once in a while and donated to a local charity. The tour guide said that the last time the collected the money, it totaled over $3,700 and it was mostly pennies. I also found the century-old graffiti interesting (no one writes graffiti in cursive these days!). It was a good tour and B.B. and I had a great day.