One of the cave passages in the Bluespring Caverns, the longest subterranean river
Quick: What do the Tribune Tower, the Pentagon, and the Empire State Building have in common? That would be Indiana limestone, quarried from Lawrence County, a.k.a. “the limestone capital of the world.” But there’s more to the southern Indiana spot than attractive geological strata. Primeval forests, underground lagoons, and wineries also await. Here, three attractions in and around the limestone belt:
- Down Under
At about a mile long, the river that runs through Bluespring Caverns is billed as the longest subterranean river in the state. Some 21 miles of twisting cave passages run alongside (there might be more, but only 21 miles has been mapped so far). After discovering an entrance to the cave on his dairy farm in 1940, George Colglazier opened the elaborate underground world to the public; today, trained cave docents steer boats through dark waters, where blind crawfish and other sightless creatures lurk. If you go, bring a jacket. The temp down below is a steady 52 degrees. Tickets for the boat tour are $14.
GO Bluespring Caverns, 1459 Bluespring Caverns Rd., Bedford; 812-279-9471, bluespringcaverns.com
- Into the Woods
The Hoosier National Forest is one of those places you can visit repeatedly without ever seeing the same woods twice. Within the forest’s 202,000 square acres, check out the Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower, a 110-foot tall lookout point once used to track fires; the Charles C. Deam Wilderness area, where trails (maintained with the help of pack mules) run though 13,000 acres of forest; and Monroe Lake. Maps are available at the Brooks Cabin visitor’s center; the trails through Hemlock Cliffs (west of Highway 37 about two miles north of Interstate 64) go alongside waterfalls, ravines, and honeycombed sandstone formations.
GO Hoosier National Forest, 811 Constitution Ave., Bedford; 812-275-5987, click here for more info.
- Rock Out
Along the “Limestone Heritage Trail,” the 44 historic/scenic spots include three cemeteries, two wineries, two state parks, and several museums. You can make a day of exploring the bi-county route on your own, or you can book a tour. Limestone trivia: The famous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey is buried in Bloomington’s Rose Hill Cemetery.
GO Limestone Heritage Trail, Monroe and Lawrence counties; for brochure click here. For tours, call 812-279-0024 or go to elitetoursinc.com
Where to stay: Since 1939, the Spring Mill Inn (Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell; 812-849-4081) has housed visitors in the heart of a scenic park; rates range from $92–$114 a night. The Overlook Lodge at the Salt Creek Golf Resort (2359 State Rd. 46 E., Nashville; 812-988-7888, saltcreekgolf.com) offers luxurious rooms with golf course views; rates range from $169–$269 a night.
Where to eat: The Millstone Dining Room (in the Spring Mill Inn; see above) features breads and pies made with grains ground in a nearby historic mill. The Artists Colony Inn, (105 S. Van Buren St., Nashville; 812-988-0600, artistscolonyinn.com) serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is known locally for its handmade sweet potato fries.