Have you ever taken your children spelunking? I took my children spelunking for the very first time last week in Tyendinaga Caverns and Caves.
What is spelunking? It is literally the hobby or practise of exploring caves.
Growing up in Belleville area, I definitely did not take advantage of everything that was in the vicinity and even now, I’m only learning about all the cool attractions and things to do. Visiting the caverns and caves of Tyendinaga, that opened to the public in 2008 has been high on my list of places to go and now that I have the time with my kids to take take in these sights, we are!
The Tyendinaga Cavern and Caves are located on Mohawk Territory, take the 401 east of Belleville, exit and head north at Shannonville Road for a couple kilometres, then turn left on Harmony Road.
From the road, it looks completely unassuming, much a like any other farmer’s field that you would drive past.
This property is touted as Ontario’s oldest natural cavern.
Tours are guided, start every 20 or so minutes and prices are:
Adult … $12.50
Youth (13 to 17) … $10.00
Seniors (65 and up) … $10.00
Kids (5 to 12) … $9.00
Children 3 to 4 … $5.00
The tour starts outside under a wooden shelter with a display of medium rocks, but what they are really doing is showing you fossils (nautiloids, corals, crinold rings and ammonoids) that were found on the property. The age of the caves is also talked about – it’s estimated to be at least 100,000 years old. You’re shown samples of stalactite -a type of formation that hangs from the ceiling of caves, drip stone/soda straws – tubular stalactites, “cave carrots”, flowstone and “cave mushrooms”, all found growing in the cave.
Next, you’re shown a couple of medium sinkholes that were found on the property. Sinkholes come in all shapes and sizes, some are small and simply look like dips in the land, while others are so large that entire city blocks collapse into the ground. These ones on the property might be large enough to swallow a car if one drove over top. These sinkholes were indicators to the property owners that there were caves and caverns underneath.
Finally – we descended into this large cave that was only 10 degrees celsius, while we were the middle of an intense heat wave. It was welcome relief!
Keeping that in mind, you might want to bring a sweater if you visit and wear shoes that are decent, the walls are hard and really are rock formations, tripping in flip flops would be painful (also note, you’re not supposed to touch the walls here as oils from skin can affect the geological growths). The stairs and floor are all concrete – man made. There are handles on the stairs, but I would not recommend this trip for anyone needing mobility assistance.
The entire cavern is roughly 300 feet, the largest chamber, 35 feet below the surface, measures 22 feet floor to ceiling. It is dark in there, the guide does have a flash light and there is a lighting system inside, but if you have a smart phone with a flashlight, keep it in your pocket just in case. If all the lights went out, you would not be able to see your hand in front of your face, it’s that dark!
The entire tour runs between 35-45 minutes depending on size of group. No one will get lost and there isn’t far to wander, so parents have no fear about kids who like to explore caves on their own. This really is a cool place to take kids for a family adventure if you’re passing by the area and want some time out of the car to see fossils, learn about flow stone deposits, cave curtains, discover a place where time stands still and give your kids a whole new experience – spelunking!