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Bonnechere Caves: Ontario’s Natural Underground Wonder
A #history lesson doesn't exactly sound like the setup for a perfect vacation, but at Bonnechere Caves, learning about our ancestors can definitely be a treat. The Caves are outside Ontario, #Canada and walking through them was the best part of our #active vacation.
I have always loved visiting caves. It is quite fascinating to travel below the surface of the ground to see what wonders lay beneath. At Bonnechere Caves, you’ll get a history lesson, a cave exploration, and an entertaining tour all in one place. It might be a little off the beaten path, but you’ll be happy that you made the drive to this secluded spot between the towns of Eganville and Douglas, Ontario, Canada.
Eganville…Douglas…where are these places? A small part of me did want to deface the Eganville sign to add a “V” in front of it, making it Veganville…my kind of place! Anyway, they’re part of the Ottawa Valley, located about an hour and a half west of Ottawa, or about four and a half hours northeast of Toronto. We combined a visit to the caves with our white water rafting trip down the Ottawa River (more to come on that later!). The property of Bonnechere Caves seems to be in the middle of the country, although the Bonnechere River does flow right past the site.
It was raining a bit that day, but the best part of visiting a cave is that the weather doesn’t matter! Rain or shine, Bonnechere Caves is always open. I would recommend that you bring a light sweater even on the hottest of days as it is always cooler underground.
Bonnechere Caves offers guided tours every hour. We waited with our small group in front of a table covered with fossils. At the beginning of our tour, our guide gave us an introduction to the region and the types of fossils that have been found in the area and inside the cave.
There were a couple of charts displaying both a “Record of Life through Geological Time”, as well as “Fossils of the Ordovician Time Period”. We learned that the limestone at Bonnechere Caves was deposited as layers of mud and silt during the Ordovician time period. The Ordovician time period happened around 400-500 million years ago, long before the evolution of fish or the time when dinosaurs walked the globe!
We were shown many actual fossils of creatures from the Ordovician time period, including many in the chart above. 500 million years ago, our part of the world was located in the tropics! Many of the fossils found buried in the walls of the cave are coral and sea creatures that existed in a tropical climate. All of the fossils were described to us and some of the smaller ones were even passed around. This was really educational for both children and adults as we tried to guess which creatures were preserved in each rock!
After we learned about the fossils, it was finally time to descend into the cave itself!
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One by one, we descended down a wooden walkway into the cave. Immediately, we felt the temperature fluctuate and we were glad that we wore long-sleeved shirts.
The cave was very well lit. While our guide had a flashlight, there were lamps set up along the path that illuminated the rock formations. Stalactites hung like icicles from the ceilings above. They grow very slowly at a rate of about one cubic inch every 150 years. Visitors should take care not to touch the stalactites as this can disrupt their growth or kill them entirely.
We learned all about the history of the cave itself and how it was discovered by the owner. It is a fascinating and at times, funny, story. I won’t completely spoil it for you, but let’s just say that the owner went through many trials and tribulations many years ago when first exploring the cave!
We discovered that many of the fossils existed in the cave walls themselves. You can see one in this photo:
At one point, we were asked if we wanted to explore a separate, small tunnel within the cave that looped back around towards the entrance. Justin, myself, and a group of the younger kids decided to walk through the narrower passageway (I can’t believe that so many people decided not to do it!). Our shoes got a little bit wet, and Justin had to duck down quite a bit to make his way through, but it was really fun! Our tour guide said that we were now “spelunkers” as we ventured through part of a cave without a guide. Well…I somehow don’t think that really counts, but I happily agreed to have the title at that moment!
During one portion of the tour, our guide turned off all of the lights in a section so we could see just how dark it was inside the cave. It was pitch black. We couldn’t see anything at all! I could see how exploring the caves initially would have had its challenges, and I appreciated that all of the lights were carefully placed and installed.
We descended deep into the bowels of the cave. Sometimes the ceiling would be directly above our heads, but at other times, the rocks extended way up high. Sometimes we would walk through narrower passages, and at other times, we would gather in larger rooms. It was fascinating to discover the interesting patterns carved over millions of years into the limestone walls.
After about an hour, our tour was over as we walked out into a very lush forested area. We were urged to follow the path and take a look into a giant sinkhole near the cave.
We had a fantastic time at Bonnechere Caves. It was great to learn some historical facts about a region that is fairly close to home. It was very educational for people of all ages, while remaining exciting and fun. We walked around examining all of the patterns and grooves in the rocks, and admired the stalactites that have been growing for thousands of years. I highly recommend checking out Bonnechere Caves, especially if you’re looking for a fun activity to do on a rainy (or sunny!) day.
Bonnechere Caves open on the May Long Weekend (Victoria Day) and close for the season on Canadian Thanksgiving (the 2nd weekend in October).