Marengo Cave & Indiana Caverns.

When people think of Indiana, they usually think of flat, rural farmland. While they’d be correct regarding most of the state, the very southern section is anything but flat. It’s pretty hilly, covered in dense woods, with numerous, extremely large caves and passages located all throughout. Four of the larger, more well-known cave systems in Indiana are: Indiana Caverns, Bluespring Caverns, Marengo Cave, and Squire Boone Caverns. Together, they make up the Indiana Cave Trail. One could technically tour all four in one day; however, it’d be pretty difficult. We toured only two – Marengo and Indiana Caverns– and it took us multiple hours.

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We first went to Marengo Cave, which is a U.S. National Natural Landmark and in a town of the same name. It was discovered in 1883; however, how it was discovered is highly disputed by the state of Indiana vs. the County of Crawford, although both versions include a group of young boys chasing a rabbit. Either way, the cave was discovered and the rest is history.

The cave is open year-round because no matter what the weather is like outside, the cave stays a constant 52 degrees Fahrenheit all year. Located at 400 East State Rd 64, Marengo, IN, the hours are daily from 9am to 5 pm. You can take two different tours – the Dripstone Trail ($20 per adult, $12 per child) and the Crystal Palace Tour ($17 per adult, $10 per child). Each cover two completely different areas of Marengo Cave.

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The Dripstone Trail is 1 mile (takes approx. 60 minutes) and the Crystal Palace tour is about 1/3 of a mile (takes approx. 30 minutes). Sometimes you must do some waiting, especially if you get there right after a tour has left. It takes a while for multiple reasons – it’s dark and people walk slowly in the dark; the groups are large, around 30+ people, which slows things down; and the guide stops literally every 15 feet to explain about cave stuff (like different kinds of stalagmites and stalactites, and other strange things that happen in caves). It’s educational and interesting, but it can become a bit cumbersome, especially when it’s difficult to hear when you’re all the way in the back (I highly suggest you try not to be in the back).

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We could only tour the Dripstone Trail, because the Crystal Palace Trail was flooded due to hard rain and closed until further notice. The trail is very easy to walk on, and you don’t have to crouch down, crawl, or do any spelunking. At one point, the cave opens up into a huge “room”, called the Music Hall. Apparently, back in the day, they used to hold concerts here (how it got its name) because the acoustics were just so good. They’d also hold weddings in here, with the first wedding documented in 1909, and various weddings held since.

Starting in the 1920’s, preachers would use the Music Hall for sermons (early preachers loved caves; they also used Cave-in-Rock in Illinois for the exact same reason – The Hidden Treasures of Southern Illinois.). In the 1970’s, they used the Music Hall to put on the play “Oliver”, and even attempted to turn it into a regularly used theater hall, but it turns out that the excitement of viewing a play in a dark, damp, always chilly cave wears off rather quickly. Various movies have also been filmed at this cave, including Abby (1974) and Fire From Below (2008).

There is water on the floor which makes for a perfect reflection.
Oldest known graffiti inside Marengo Cave; dated 1884, one year after it was discovered.
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Our guide inside Indiana Caverns, and you can see the metal walkway in the background.

Once we were spit out of Marengo Cave, we headed to Indiana Caverns. We got there just in time for the last tour of the day, and it was literally just us and 3 other men (8 total – hallelujah). Indiana Caverns is billed as “Indiana’s Longest Cave“, takes 1.5 hours to complete, and includes a short boat ride. It costs $21 for adults and $11.50 for kids. Located at 1267 Green Acres Dr SW, Corydon, IN, it’s open from 9am to 5pm. I was sure that this cave trail was shorter than Marengo’s trail; however, it turned out to be 1/2 a mile longer. Perhaps because we got a much more personalized tour and were able to talk to and engage with the guide.

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Indiana Caverns: you can see the water and metal walkway below us.

Indiana Caverns differs from Marengo Cave in that there is no trail, but rather a constructed metal pathway. The floor of this cave varies between water and extremely jagged rock formations. They’d would’ve had to destroy a large portion of the cave to make a ground-level path. The metal walkway is easy to walk on; however, it does get wet and kind of slippery (I wouldn’t recommend doing any cave trails in sandals or flip flops).

I found this cave mote interesting than Marengo because we learned about all the various ice-age bones that have been found here, including a flat-headed peccary (like a wild hog), bears, fishers (a weasel looking creature), beavers, and bison. According to the guide, these animals would venture into the cave via a hole at the top, and due to it being pitch black, they wouldn’t see the steep drop-off and would tumble to the bottom. The boat ride through the flooded part of the cave is smooth and simple, but they only take you a fraction of the way. They offer other tours where you can kayak your way through various flooded parts of the cave. It’s something I wanted to do but didn’t get the chance.


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Marengo Caves’ “Great Wall of China”.

Overall, if you’re ever in the area of southern Indiana, southern Illinois, or southeast Ohio, you should definitely go check out these awesome caves. It’s a great day trip, and there are plenty of little towns and restaurants you can eat at along the way. These caves are super accessible, educational, and just plain cool to look at. Just make sure you bring a sweater!

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