The Only Cavern in the Great Lakes Area is Located in Southwest Michigan
Before returning to Michigan I spent the last several years living in Southwest Missouri. Known as the "Cave State" Missouri is home to over 6,400 caves many of which are open to the public for guided tours.
Going "caving" or "spelunking" was always one of my favorite pastimes when I lived down south so it got me curious: are there any caves within driving distance of West Michigan?
Fortunately, it turns out we don't have to drive very far!
According to the Pure Michigan website "the only cavern in the Great Lakes area" is right here in Southwest Michigan.
Relatively small in size, Bear Cave is located in nearby Buchanan, Michigan.
Formed over 25,000 years ago in a bed of secondary limestone called "tufa", the cave is resting on a "glacial drift deposited during the last ice age approximately 50,000 years ago." Relatively small in size, the cave measures 15 feet deep, 4-6 feet wide, and between 10-15 feet high.
However, Bear Cave is jam-packed with history!
Railroads and Robbers
Bear Cave was famously used as a stop in the Underground Railroad. As there are several rooms throughout the cave, the one referred to as "Slave Room" was where escaping slaves were hidden as they made their way to freedom.
The cave was also used by thieves in 1875 to hide loot from an Ohio bank robbery, which then became the inspiration for the 1903 silent film classic The Great Train Robbery, a film that is now on the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. I had no idea such a significant part of American history was right in our own backyard!
Bear Cave- Present Day
Today the site is home to Bear Cave & Resort RV and campground. Host to 135 sites, the resort is open from mid-April to the end of October and provides a number of family-friendly activities during your stay like kayaking in Lake Chapin, hiking trails, and shuffleboard.
The cave is accessed through the gift shop and you might even see some bats along the way!