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Backgrounder

Business Purpose

Marengo Cave is a National Natural Landmark and along with it’s sister facility, Cave Country Canoes on Blue River, has become a full fledged outdoor recreation center for families and groups. The park is dedicated to providing a safe, fun and educational experience for visitors while preserving, protecting and restoring one of the most beautiful caverns and rivers in the Midwest. Both the cavern and the river it drains into are part of one of nature’s most natural and beautiful plumbing systems that will be here long after we are gone. With careful management and promotion, we are able to share these natural resources with our visitors and insure the financial resources necessary for their preservation.

Background

Southern Indiana contains over 3,000 known caves including some of the longest in the United States. Most of these caves are contained in a small pie shaped area of the state that was not glaciated during the recent ice ages. According to the most knowledgeable speleologists, Marengo Cave began to form from acidic ground water moving along bedding planes in the limestone sometime between 700,000 and 1,200,000 years ago. This process of enlargement continues today in the lower levels of the cave which contain an active stream, while the process of refilling and gradual erosion are occurring simultaneously in the upper levels.

Indians may have visited Marengo Cave several thousand years ago, but this may never be proven. The first documented visitors, Orris and Blanche Hiestand, slid down into a small opening at the bottom of a sinkhole using candles for a light source on Thursday, September 6, 1883. Although they did not go far, the following Sunday, the 9th, Mitch Stewart, son of the property owner and his teenage friends, explored the main passageway. The cave they saw was so grand that as the word spread the next day hundreds of area residents descended upon the cave entrance. Samuel Stewart seeing both an opportunity and a need to protect the cave opened it to the public immediately in a primitive fashion. The cave has remained open continuously ever since.

The cave has had a colorful and checkered history. It was an early destination of railroad excursions and the site of band concerts and many community functions. With the increasing popularity of the automobile and the poor dirt roads in the rural hill country, the cave’s prominence declined. Even with the poor location transportation-wise, the cave remained open even in the depths of the Great Depression, because of its good word-of-mouth advertising.

The cave has had only three ownerships in 118 years. The Stewart family, until 1955 when Floyd Denton purchased the cave with great plans for development. Unfortunately, his plans were cut short when he died of a stroke in 1961. The present ownership purchased the cave in 1973 during the period when Interstate 64 was being constructed through southern Indiana. With better roads, an increasingly mobile population and aggressive promotion and quality improvements, the cave business began to grow again. The cave and surrounding park have grown nearly continuously the past 30 years. The cave is now considered Indiana’s #1 natural attraction.

For more information, contact our Media Representative.



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