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All Things Michigan

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Bear Cave in Buchanan

Andrew Norton

Bear Cave is the only cavern in the Great Lakes area. It was formed in "tufa rock" which is a secondary limestone. It is estimated that this particular bed of rock is at least 25,000 years old and is resting on a glacial drift deposited during the last ice age approximately 50,000 years ago. Along the 40 foot winding stairway that leads visitors through the cave you will see stalactites, petrified leaves, and other peculiar shapes. The metal oxides of native ores color the entire cave. The cave measures 15 feet deep, four to six feet wide and 10-15 feet high.

The cave holds quite a bit of significant history. It played a significant part in the Underground Railroad during the period of slavery. In 1875 the "loot" from an Ohio bank robbery was "deposited" in the cave. This became the inspiration for the 1903 silent film The Great Train Robbery. The film is now considered a silent film classic and was the precursor of the thriller movies of today.

The area surrounding the Bear Cave is rich in tree-covered hills, deep ravines, wildflowers, and the grand St. Joseph River. Most likely, there are hundreds of "Bear Caves" all over the globe, but this cave is unique to Michigan and holds a distinct history.

If you go: Bear Cave is located 3 miles north of Buchanan on the Red Bud Trail. It is located within the Bear Cave Resort (a condo-style resort on 4085 Bear Cave Road). The cave is entered through the gift shop. It is open from May to October and there is an admission fee. Call 269-695-3050 for hours and other information.