During our visit to Marion last month, we were feeling rather adventurous and decided to make a small side-trip to Cave in Rock State Park. The cave, for which this park in southern Illinois is named, overlooks the Ohio River.
We had done a lot of walking along woodland trails during the previous couple of days and I must admit that I viewed the river and its rocky bluffs as a welcome change of scenery.
The bluffs towered above us as we made our way along the path towards the cave and I was once again reminded of how unpredictable nature can be, when I remembered the news that morning concerning a fatal rock fall in Yosemite National Park. I felt extremely vulnerable walking under those great overhanging limestone rocks.
As far as caves go, this one, measuring 55ft across, is not that large, but it has an interesting history. American Indians had already used the cave for thousands of years but the first European to discover it in 1729 was a Frenchman who mapped and named it “caverne dans Le Roc”. During the late 1790’s the cave was a hideout for a gang of bandits, headed by Samuel Mason, that preyed on commercial boats using the river. Local lore even tells of Frank and Jesse James using the cave as a hiding place. Later, settlers founded the nearby town of Cave in Rock and it became the site of the ferry that crosses the Ohio River.
I’m not a huge fan of caves. My imagination works overtime in these places and I find them claustrophobic, rather like walking into an extremely large MRI machine. The last time I was in one was many years ago when I went with the Girl Scouts to Eagle Cave in Wisconsin. So it was with some trepidation that took the first few steps into this one and as our only source of light got smaller I felt more and more apprehensive. What if there were bats!! Eek!
But, I told myself, you can’t take pictures if you don’t get in there! So on I went. There were no bats. In fact there wasn’t much of anything except a lot of graffiti scrawled across the rock. It wasn’t easy to get a picture that didn’t include some childish desecration and, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there’s no way I will memorialize these idiotic scratchings by photographing them.
It was good to emerge into the sunlight again and I felt like I could breath a little easier, standing on the banks of the river.
I thought I’d check out the path in the opposite direction, which took me past another smaller cave that had been blocked by some huge tree trunks, whether by nature or the hand of man I wasn’t sure. No matter. One cave per day was enough for me and this one didn’t look very safe so I was happy to finish the expedition and return to the car.
For those of you interested in visiting, Cave in Rock State Park has a restaurant and lodge as well as playground and picnic areas and plenty of hiking trails.