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Hocking Hills Caves

Listed under Caves & Caving in Lakes Midwest, United States.

  • Photo of Hocking Hills Caves
  • Photo of Hocking Hills Caves
  • Photo of Hocking Hills Caves
  • Photo of Hocking Hills Caves
Photo of Hocking Hills Caves
Photo by gregorybrick
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The Hocking Hills of southern Ohio were just beyond the glacial boundary during the last Ice Age. As the continental ice sheet retreated, the resulting meltwater carved gorges, some more than a hundred feet deep, in the reddish Blackhand Sandstone of the Hocking Hills. In postglacial times, the underfit streams that occupied these valleys meandered about, undercutting the sandstone, leaving enormous rock shelters such as Ash Cave and Old Man’s Cave. These unique features, and others, have been preserved in Hocking Hills State Park, a very scenic place to spend a day or more.

Old Man’s Cave is where you will find the state park headquarters, a small museum, gift shop, etc. The cave is named with reference to one of the earliest settlers in the region, who took up residence in this secluded gorge in the 1790s. He is reputedly buried in the cave. Walking down into this gorge along the well-maintained boardwalks, viewing the cliff dwellings, stone bridges, and so forth, reminded me of a trip to Mesa Verde I took years ago.

Ash Cave is an enormous, 700-foot long, horseshoe shaped overhang. Occupied by Native Americans, it was the scene of countless fires over the millennia, which gave it its name. Going there today, no ashes are found, as they were removed years ago. In pioneer days, the soil of this vast rockshelter was harvested for saltpeter production. Many old dates and signatures grace the walls. In winter, a giant ice cone forms below the waterfall notch.

Rockhouse is another unit of the state park. It’s a linear gallery that formed in a cliff-parallel vertical joint in the sandstone walls of a dry waterfall gorge. “Hornet’s-nest” weathering has left 7 “windows” looking out into the deep gorge. Erosion of the pervasive cross-bedding in the sandstone has left a sloping rock floor inside the cave. The walls, of course, are densely covered with old names and dates.

Conkle’s Hollow, another unit, has many dark, cavernous meander niches.

As for accommodations, there are several motels in the town of Logan, which bills itself as "the Gateway to the Hocking Hills," but the most popular thing to do in this outpost of Appalachia seems to be renting log cabins with hot tubs, of which there is a goodly supply!

Written by  Greg Brick.

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