Marengo Cave National Landmark

Useful Information

Location: From Indianapolis south on I-65 to exit 6B(New Albany), I-265 west to exit #118 (Georgetown). Turn right at the end of exit onto Ind. S.R. 64, go west 40 km.
Open: Labor Day to Memorial Day daily 9-17, Memorial Day to Labor Day Mon-Fri 9-18, Sat, Sun, Hol 9-18:30.
Tours scheduled by demand, but in Summer at least every 30 min and in winter every 60 minues.
Fee: Crystal Palace: Adults USD 18, Children (4-12) USD 10.
Dripstone Trail: Adults USD 21, Children (4-12) USD 12.
Both: Adults USD 28, Children (4-12) USD 16.
Groups (12+):
Crystal Palace: Adults USD 14, Children (4-12) USD 8.
Dripstone Trail: Adults USD 17, Children (4-12) USD 10.
Both: Adults USD 22, Children (4-12) USD 12.
Old Town Spring Cave (cave trekking tour): per person $22. [2018]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=8,948, VR=23 m, T=11 °C.
Guided tours: Crystal Palace Tour: L=530 m, D=40 min.
Dripstone Trail Tour: L=1,600 m, D=70 min.
Accessibility: No, steps and narrow passages
Bibliography: Anon (ny): Marengo Cave, US National Landmark, paperback, 32 pp, many B&W photos.
Address: Marengo Cave, U.S. National Landmark, P.O. Box 217, Marengo Cave Road, Marengo, IN 47140, Tel. +1-812-365-2705, Fax: +1-812-365-2705, Free: +1-888-702-2837.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


06-SEP-1883 discovered by Blanche and Orris Heistand, two children who noticed an opening near the bottom of a sinkhole.
1896 Samuel M. Stewart dies and ownership of the cave passed to his wife, Mary Stewart.
1899 Mary Stewart dies and the cave is owned by the ten heirs.
1900 Marengo Cave Company formed to operate the cave for the inheritors. Samuel M. Stewart (Mitch) was the first manager.
1910 Crystal Palace entrace built.
1911 J. M. Weathers takes over as manager.
1913 J. M. Weathers Jr hires William (Bill) Clifton as a caretaker. He works as a guide for 52 years.
1923 First electric lights.
1929 Charles Fitzgerald takes over as manager and wants to buy the part of the cave under John E (Ed) Ross's land. Unable to come to an agreement the 700 feet of passage under the Ross's land is fenced off.
1955 Local business man Floyd Denton buys the cave. New lighting system installed.
1960 Denton dies and his wife Lucille runs the cave.
1963 Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the cave is designated as a civil defence shelter for 435 people.
1965 Mrs Denton's son-in-law, Jack Hollis, runs the cave
1971 Tony Oldham visits the cave.
1972 Ross dies and the fence comes down.
1973 Four cavers, Gordon Smith, Terry Crayden, Gary Robertson and Pat Stephens, buy the cave. Terry Crayden is installed as manager.
1974 Gary Robinson takes over a manager.
1978 Ross section reopened and a new entrance Dripstone Trail Entrance is opened up.
1979 Dripstone Trail Tour opened.
1979 Cave closed due to flooding.
28-JUL-1982 Armed robbery in cave. A former guide holds up a party with a shot gun and removes all their valuables. Caught two weeks later, gets 10 years in local jail.
1984 Caves designated as a National Landmark.
1992 a huge new section of the cave was discovered at the Blowing Bat Crawl.
23-MAY-2004 cave temporarily closed due to heavy tornado.


Marengo Cave has been described as one of the most beautiful show caves in the eastern United State. It is noted for its large trunk passage, up to three meters high and 20 meters wide adorned with some very impressive and massive speleothems.

There are two different tours, the shorter one is very easy to walk and shows the most impressive speleothems. The longer tour is rather new, as it was opened in 1979, and shows especially huge numbers of soda straws and slender totem pole stalagmites.

There is some confusion about the date and the story how the cave was discovered. Local lore tells, Orris and Blanche Heistand, brother and sister at ages 15 and 11, discovered the cave. They first discovered it on 06-SEP-1883 and a few days passed before anybody else went to explore it. There is a written deposition by Orris Heistand who wrote it before he died, which tells this version of the story and so it is the commonly told story. But if you read the book A History of Crawford County, Indiana from 1926, written by Hazen Hayes Pleasant, a Central Normal College professor, you will hear a different story. On 18-AUG-1883 some boys stumbled onto the cave while chasing a rabbit. They ran into town and immediately a large crowd of men and boys went to the cave to explore it.

Discovery stories are often a bit strange. After one hundred years it is often not clear who discovered a cave, especially if this happened in distinct steps. Someone stumbles upon the entrance, another one enters the cave for the first time, a third one makes a true exploration while his predecessors just peeked into the entrance. And at the end all of them tell their friend how they discovered the cave.

Concerning Marengo Cave, the story of chasing a rabbit or a bear into a hole is pretty common and told for most caves in Indiana, and actually all over the world. Probably Mr Pleasant mixed up two different caves. The best documented story, which is commonly agreed on, is about Orris and Blanche Hiestand sliding down into a small opening at the bottom of a sinkhole, using candles for a light source. This happened on Thursday, September 6, 1883. The following Sunday, the 9th, Mitch Stewart, son of the property owner and his teenage friends explored the main passageway.