Ultimate Guide to Sullivan Cave, Indiana (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)
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Sullivan Cave, the 4th longest cave in the state, is one of those caves best explored with the help of experienced cavers. The cave proudly sits on a 28-acre property owned by Indiana Karst Conservancy, a non-profit group that aims to protect the Karst landscape of the state. Groups need to apply to the cave patron for access to the cave and agree to comply with all guidelines to protect the integrity of the cave.
Sullivan Cave, Indiana
It is important to note that Sullivan Cave is not your regular cave. The cave is beautiful, no doubt, but it is unsafe to explore. It is not one of those caves you would want to explore unless you are an expert or advanced caver.
History of Sullivan Cave
It is widely believed that the 40 ft section of the Sullivan Cave that extends from the entrance to the Waterfall Room and a portion of the crevice passage has been known to the explorers since the 1840s. There is an extended passage with a low ceiling wherein explorers need to crawl. This room has been aptly named “Backbreaker.”
Markings from the late 1800s have been found in this Backbreaker room. In 1952, the National Speleological Society showed reasonable interest in the cave and in the Backbreaker passage.
The Central Indiana Grotto, a newly formed group, took an interest in the cave in 1956. Art Davis, a group member, made his first trip to the Sullivan Cave in Jan 1956. During that time, the explored part of the Sullivan Cave consisted of the Backbreaker passage and Water Room passage.
The ceiling drips in the Water Room were the only known water in the cave apart from the one at the entrance. However, the crawl hole in the Water Room is now blocked by a ceiling collapse in the room. Art Davis was sure that there was an active stream inside the cave. He began to check for every possibility along the length and breadth of the cave.
In May 1956, the Mountain Room was discovered, and after a few months, the Quarry Room was discovered. In 1962 a group of seven cavers began the cave survey and found about 2000 ft of new passage. Four months later, a new group discovered 8000 ft of passage and eight large rooms.
The Sullivan Cave has been famous since the 1960s. Since vandalism has been a significant problem here, a decision was made to protect the cave. In January 1990, a large gate was put up in the main entrance of the Sullivan Cave to ensure that only responsible cavers entered the cave. In the summer of 1997, the cave was put up for sale by the then owners, and in Oct 1998, the cave was bought by Indiana Karst Conservancy.
Geological Cave Formations in Sullivan Cave
The Sullivan Cave boasts of some large stalagmite formations and a wide range of small formations that hang from the ceilings and sides of the rooms in a scattered manner. Many of these formations are known as stubs, meaning that they were broken off in the past.
Wildlife in Sullivan Cave
The Sullivan Cave is known for its wide array of biological life that consists of a small bat population of Pipistrelle, Indiana & Little Brown bats. You will also come across salamanders, isopods, beetles, amphipods & cave crayfish. The famous Sullivan cavefish is found in the Sullivan River.
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Is Sullivan Cave Haunted?
Sullivan Cave is not haunted and has been explored by experienced cavers over the years.
How Big is Sullivan Cave?
The Sullivan Cave is the 4th longest in India, with a total mapped length of 9.63 miles.
Sullivan Cave Tours
In Sullivan Cave, you and the members of the caving party are your guides. The pathways inside the cave are not lighted, which means that this trek is suitable for only those who know cave exploration ins and outs.
The IKC clearly states that since Sullivan Cave has been categorized as a natural and wild cave, no improvements will ever be entertained. The trek can be treacherous even for seasoned cavers, and the most aptly named feature is the Backbreaker, which refers to the passage with a low ceiling.
A permit is required to enter the cave. As soon as you enter the cave, you will need to climb down to the Waterfall Room. Some of the main features of the Sullivan Cave which you would be able to view as you progress are –
- The Mountain Room has a height of 60 ft and a massive width of 100 ft.
- The Colossus is the largest room in the Sullivan Cave, and it has a height of 120 ft and is almost 200 ft in length.
Exploration in groups is always encouraged, and one must have a clear idea of where he is going in the cave.
Sullivan Cave Tour Prices and Discounts
There are no fees for accessing Sullivan Cave, but entry is open to only organized and responsible cavers. If you wish to visit Sullivan Cave, you must contact the Cave Patron to get the required permit. Anyone entering the cave must sign a liability release and follow all the rules laid down by the Indiana Karst Conservancy.
Is Sullivan Cave Cold?
The temperature inside the Sullivan Cave is cooler than the surrounding areas, which is a common phenomenon for every cave.
What to Wear?
Visitors to Sullivan Cave can wear in which they are comfortable, but since a bit of crawling is involved, wearing appropriate clothing is recommended.
Sullivan Cave Hours
You can access the Sullivan Cave from dawn to dusk, but exact timings will be informed when you apply for the permit.
What to Do at Sullivan Cave (Beside Tours)
The best option for visitors is to thoroughly explore the Sullivan Cave and its surroundings since there is no other notable attraction nearby.
Best Time to Visit Sullivan Cave
One can visit the Sullivan Cave any time of the year. Summer and autumn season is most preferred as the weather is not harsh and it receives many visitors during this time.
How to Get to Sullivan Cave
The Sullivan Cave is approximately 10 miles south of Bloomington, Indiana
Hotels near Sullivan Cave
There are a few hotels near the Sullivan Cave, but Goose Pond Lodge & Retreat and Sullivan Motel deserve special mention. Camping on the property is allowed, but such privileges are granted only to Indiana Karst Conservancy members and their accompanying friends.
Places To Stay Nearby
Visiting Sullivan Cave
Do you need more information before visiting Sullivan Cave? Call (317) 258 – 9983 or email Indiana Karst Conservancy for an information packet.
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