The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
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 vol. 41. iss. 3, September 2006
pine wood?  I am simply not going to go there, because the whole thing is just too exhausting to contemplate. So all I will say is, go see this beautiful cave before it gets really, really messed up.

Bluespring Caverns and Myst’ry River Voyage

On my way back from delivering son Oliver (my son) into the jaws of the University of Wisconsin, I rebelled against the interstate while traversing the Indianapolis ring-road and headed south on SR 37 to see Indiana’s karst (and also to see the area through which I-69 is slated to be built). It is forested karst, not like our bare-naked Kentucky sinkhole landscapes.  I hurried past the flesh-pots of Bloomington and through Bedford, and got gas at a rural intersection with US 50, where a sign to Bluespring Caverns and the hokily-named “Myst’ry River” boat tour, two miles away, called to me alluringly. I had long wanted to see this “attraction”, which is billed fast and loosely as the longest cave river in the country (23.5 miles), and is in the well-studied, world-class Mitchell Plain karst region.

To quote the Hoosier National Forest web site: “Over time, massive rock beds tilted and developed cracks and faults.  Erosion has worn away the upper layers in the Mitchell Plain, exposing the geologically older limestones.  Here the karst features such as sinkholes and

disappearing streams are common elements of the landscape.  It is here that towns such as Bedford, Bloomington, Mitchell, and Oolitic developed around the limestone quarry industry.  It is also here one can find the majority of Indiana's 2,500 caves.”

Online information source, co-developed by the Hoosier NF and the Indiana Karst Conservancy, is available at

I did not get any of that good enviro stuff from my visit to Bluesprings Caverns. At the bottom of a sinkhole you find the visitor center and entry area to the cave, which was a farm lake until it suddenly drained during the 1940s, revealing this fabulous underground waterway. We walked down a steep, narrow concrete walkway that cleverly channels surface runoff into a torrent that rips down into the cave river below, and climbed onto a flat-bottom boat for our one-hour trip along what appeared to be a city-built storm sewer passage.

The man nearest me was barely holding in his claustrophobia at being in this flooded tunnel, and I could not blame him – along this dull and dismal water route, I kept expecting to see ladders leading up to manhole covers. I am not a caver who requires formations or I demand my money back, but this was sort of sad.

But then cave boat tours are usually like this, in my limited experience among the older cave boat trips – the owners dam up a cave stream, dream up goofy names for the bumps on the walls, plop down a boat or two, and rake in the bucks. (An additional thrill on the new Lost River Cave boat tour in Bowling Green is an advisory to keep your

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