It was a perfect spring morning, sun shining, birds chirping, a slight breeze in the air and we had just driven through Starbuck’s drive through to caffeinate the adults and hydrate our little geologists for the journey that lied ahead. Our destination, Seneca Caverns; one of Ohio’s registered Natural Landmarks located in the beautiful Bellevue, Ohio.
Seneca Caverns was discovered in June 1872 by two boys, Peter Rutan and Henry Komer of Flat Rock, Ohio, while hunting rabbits with their dog. Their dog chased a rabbit to a brush pile, where the dog and rabbit then disappeared. The boys dug around the brush pile and discovered an opening, which was actually a natural sinkhole. The boys fell through the opening, landing in the first level of the cave. They found their dog, and crawled back up to the cave entrance. They then returned home and told everyone about their discovery.
The cave became known as Good’s Cave after the owner of the farm on which the cave was located. In 1929, the caves were explored further by a local and in 1931, a series of passageways and rooms not previously known to exist, which led to an underground river, the water table was discovered ….with this discovery, the cave was large enough to develop commercially. Following two and a half year’s improvement effort, Seneca Caverns was opened to the public on May 14, 1933.
Retained close to its original, natural, wild state, this subterranean tour is truly a unique and educational experience you will always remember. Experts have stated that Seneca Caverns may be the only cave of its kind open for public visitation. The official designation as a Registered Natural Landmark by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources reflects this quality!
Seneca Caverns is one of Ohio’s largest underground caverns, and one of America’s most fascinating geological wonders. For full History CLICK HERE
Our journey to Bellevue from Toledo was roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes. As we arrived the children’s eyes frantically searched for the opening/entrance to the caverns, to no avail. It turned out that the entrance to the caverns was inside the visitors’ center.
We made our way to the visitors’ center, purchased our tickets for the next tour, and then hit up the Port-A-Pots…it took forever to convince my 5 year old that she wouldn’t fall in the Pot-A-Pot (great way to kill time, lol!), so by the time we were finally finished our tour was ready to begin!
And so our adventure begins………
We walked down a small flight of stairs into a room where we sat while the tour guide shared the history of the caverns. My 10 and 8 year old were so eager to get into the caverns; the suspense looked as though it might literally kill them, haha! Then, finally the moment they had been waiting for, the tour guide opened the door so we could begin descending. At first it felt like a creepy basement with a combination of manmade and natural rock forms, roots dangling everywhere, and an overall Alice in Wonderland feel.
My five year old held my hand so tightly I feared loss of circulation. She was a bit timid but I figured I could use my mommy persuasion to calm her nerves. As we officially entered the cavern reality hit, this was not like any cave I have ever been in before, this cave required more of a hands on approach, as in brace yourself on this rock while you climb down. This made it tricky to help my 5 year old who at this time wasn’t budging at ALL. She was afraid and my mommy persuasion was failing me so I stepped it up to the next level, bribing. I tried ice cream, toy, even candy, but nothing was going to make her feet move one more step into the caverns, which put me in a tricky situation because my 8 & 10 year olds were having the time of their lives! It is in moments like these that moms often make the sacrifice, they sacrifice their experience for the sake of their child which was why I was so thankful my mom was willing to make that sacrifice and go back up with my 5 year old so I could continue to watch my two oldest enjoy their journey through the caverns. (She really is the World’s BEST mom & Nana)
My 8 and 10 year olds had a blast identifying fossils in the rock formations, noting the stalactites, climbing over rocks, exploring, and learning more about this magnificent underground world.
The tour led us through seven rooms, or levels, with the largest room being 250 feet in length. At the lowest level, which is 110 feet below the surface, we had the opportunity to not only view “Ole Mist’ry River,” the crystal clear flowing stream that is part of the vast ground-water system but we also had the opportunity to taste the refreshing water.
We learned so much on our tour, it was quite educational, and we can see why it’s one of America’s most fascinating geological wonders. But the fun wasn’t over yet!
After the tour we reunited with my mom and 5 years old who were out on the front lawn enjoying the gorgeous day. (It should be noted that there are very clean picnic tables on the property and gorgeous lawn just begging for a blanket to be thrown down on it…in case your family has to tour the caverns in shifts due to little ones). Then all 3 kiddos went panning for treasure!
The gift shop has bags of paydirt for sale. Inside each bag are either, gemstones, minerals, crystals, arrowheads, and/or fossils! The children then took their bags outside to the Seneca Mining Company located at Seneca Caverns and used the real operating sluice with flowing water to pan for their treasures.
The fossils, crystals, minerals & sharks teeth are from all over the world!
Fluorite: Rosiclare, Illinois
Rubies and Sapphires: Sapphire, North Carolina
Amethyst: Brazil, South America
Quartz Crystals: Arkansas
Fossils: Morocco, USA, and other fossil-rich areas of the world
They had the BEST time at Seneca Caverns, even our scared little 5 year old was totally redeemed when she got to pan for her treasures. This was such a magnificent experience for all of us, I highly recommend Seneca Caverns as a fun family friendly Ohio destination.
Address: 15248 E. Township. Road 178, Bellevue, OH 44811
Cost: Adults $17 (13-61), Seniors (62+) $15, Children (5-12) $8, Children (0-4) FREE, Child Cavern Package Pricing (includes admission & paydirt bag) $13
FYI: No strollers or back carriers allowed and strongly not advised to carry a baby (you need two hands free while you descend and ascend the cavern), Bring a sweatshirt/jacket it gets really cool in the caverns (54 degrees)
Restrooms: 3 Port-a-Pots on the grounds
Hours: Open 7 days a week 9am-7pm (last tour leaves an hour before closing) rain or shine