Summer Adventures: (Mini Vacation 2017) Seneca Caverns in Bellevue, Ohio

This past Wednesday, we decided to try to find something to do for a couple days since my husband was finally able to take a few extra vacation days off work. And since he took them right before his regular weekend days off, he ended up having a 4 day weekend. If you are a regular DustinNikki Mommy of Three reader, you probably have seen all my posts about the places we have visited in Ohio. We have been to those places on multiple occasions and wanted to check out something new. We thought about looking into the Ohio Caverns but then we came across Seneca Caverns. The more we looked into it, we decided that was what we wanted to see.

We then found out that it was almost a 3 hour drive. Seneca Caverns is located in Bellevue, Ohio and it is really close to Sandusky. So we decided to reserve a hotel stay and head up to Lake Erie the next day since we have never been there before. We stayed in Milan which happens to be the birthplace of Thomas Edison. There is even a birthplace museum up there but we didn’t get a chance to see it. By the time we were finished at Seneca Caverns and got to the hotel and settled in, we went looking for dinner and the kids wanted to swim in the pool afterward. The next day was all Lake Erie so we skipped on the Edison museum.

Seneca Caverns was really interesting to us because it’s a cavern that goes straight down underground. They take tours down to 110 feet underground. At the bottom of the cavern is an underground river called the “Ole Mist’ry River”. The river is crystal clear natural water that is part of a natural underground water system underlying the surrounding region. You cannot explore the caverns alone. They run tours and small groups go down with a tour guide. The prices are pretty affordable. Adults (ages 13 and older) are $17. Seniors ages 62+ is $16 while kids ages 5-12 is $8. For kids ages 5-12, you can opt to pay $13 and they can get a Paydirt Gem Bag so they can use the Caveman Mining area and sift their gem bag to see what kind of treasures they can find. I will write up a separate post for that. Kids under the age of 5 are free. Strollers and wheelchairs are prohibited. They are impossible to make it through the caverns.

Before our tour started, our group was moved into a room in their tour/gift shop and information building. In this room we were all seated and our tour guide introduced herself. She gave us the safety rundown, explained how to traverse the caverns (because there are low ceilings and narrow walkthroughs) and told us some of the history of how the caverns were discovered. It was discovered in 1872 by two boys who were hunting rabbits with their dog. Their dog disappeared in brush and when they went to retrieve their dog, they fell through a natural sinkhole and landed in the first level of the cave. So because of a rabbit, the cave was found. There is more of the history here – http://www.senecacavernsohio.com/history.html if you want to check it out. After many years of discovering and exploring the cave, it was opened for tours in 1933.

After our tour guide talked to us for a bit, we entered the cave from the door in the room. It’s the only way into the caverns so nobody can just enter by themselves.

On one of the first levels (there’s a total of 7 levels) where our tour guide stopped us, she showed us a few names that were either carved or written with different materials from the early settlers back in the 1800’s. Some of which were actually dated. Some were carvings and some of the names they found were written in tar. A couple other names they discovered, they found that those people tried to write their names from smoke from fire. I thought it was pretty interesting.

There was another room in another level where there were fossils on the walls and ceilings. There was a time when the water rose all the way up to the top levels and took years to go back down. Because of this, there were a lot of fossils left behind.

There’s also another room/level that they call the stalactites room. On the walls and ceiling of one side of this room, you can see them growing. They are still really small. I appreciate how much they care for the cavern and how much they care about the stalactites. She made it very clear that we were not to touch those walls or ceiling on that side because the oils from our hands can hurt their growth. It was actually pretty educational too. She was very knowledgeable about them and the rest of the cavern.

At the bottom, she had to take us only a couple at a time to see the water. There is another level but we were stopped right above the “river room” because the water has been just above that room for a while. Because of the recent flooding and rain, the water had some bubbly debris on top but it normally runs crystal clear. We were able to touch it and it was pretty cold. We were informed that the water stays roughly around 42 degrees. Of course the caverns stay around only 54 degrees which is why they recommend wearing a jacket. 

By the time we were at the bottom, we were 110 feet underground. It’s kind of scary if you really think about it but at the same time, I thought it was really cool. They aren’t sure how deep the water goes or how deep the caverns actually go. There are other offshoots of the caverns that haven’t been completely explored even after all these years which is why they don’t let people go down exploring on their own. There’s still a lot of things that has yet to be discovered. Our tour guide told us that every once in a while they send divers down there to see if they could see how far down it goes. The furthest they have ever gotten down to was 250 feet and they had found that they couldn’t get any further because the opening were way too small (that also includes how far down they already were before diving into the water).

She did say that they know it does end somewhere because they have never found any traces of lava. 

The whole tour took about an hour. That included going back up which was a lot harder than going down. When going down, it was literally like going strait down into the earth. You walked a few feet on each level and then climbed down a bunch of natural steps to reach the next level. One of the levels was about 15 to 20 feet in length but for the most part, you just literally kept going down. So of course going back up was more difficult.

Going back up also could make it hard to breath because of the changes in the air because of so far down we were so we were advised to go slow. Nobody had any issues though. Once we got back to the top, it was really strange to be chilled and all the sudden be hot because the temperature outside was like 90 degrees.

When we got back up, we came out through another door into their building again. We took a look around their gift shop and then the boys picked out their Paydirt Gem Bags since we paid for the kid tour with gem bag for the both of them. Basically we paid $5 for a gem bag that costs $10 if you buy them separately. I’ll have more on how that works in my next post so be sure to look for it.

Final Thoughts

We thought it was pretty cool. It was really interesting and educational. Our tour guide was really knowledgeable about the history of the cave, how the cave system works, and knew about the different levels, fossils and different stone. Some of the stuff I already knew but some of it I didn’t. And I thought it was pretty educational for my kids who didn’t know about some of this kind of thing.

Traversing the caverns isn’t hard but it isn’t exactly easy either. Most of the way has low ceilings and you have to watch your head. There are tons of narrow and small spaces to navigate. But at the same time, the small and narrow spaces can be helpful as you are making your way down the natural steps or footfalls because there is always something you can hold onto so you can easily move your way down.

They don’t have restrictions on carrying younger children (since you can’t bring a stroller) but they don’t recommend carrying. I completely agree with this myself. I actually don’t even know how anyone could carry a child through the caverns myself. I think a child as young as 2 or 3 would be fine as long as they are good walkers and climbers. I personally wouldn’t bring a child younger than 5 but that’s just me. Our youngest is almost 8 and he did just fine. My kids are good climbers though. It’s definitely a workout. I didn’t feel it much until the next day. My legs were sore!

And that was our experience through Seneca Caverns! More of our mini vacation is to come!

Related Blog Posts

Seneca Caverns Part 1 – About the Cavern and our Tour (you are here)

Seneca Caverns Part 2 – About the Caveman Mining/Sifting Activities

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