Hocking Hills State Park -
People have always been fascinated by the breathtaking beauty left behind after nature carved her name into the Blackhand Sandstone of Old Man's Cave. Many enjoy the unique features around Old Man's Cave but few question how the hollows and ridges were cut into this particular stretch of land. Ever wonder? Well here's why....
To begin with, the gritty, reddish stone you see all over the park is a type of sandstone called Blackhand Sandstone. It was left behind more than 200 million years ago when Ohio's ancient ocean drained from the land.
But long after the sea disappeared, the land around Old Man's Cave was still being changed by millions of years of subtle movements and shifts deep beneath the earth.
Actually, along with the movement of the earth, it's really nothing more than water and erosion that made this place we call Hocking Hills. In fact, your own back yard might be able to take on this same effect with a hose, a shovel and some earthmoving equipment. Oh and you'll also need a few million years of patience too. That's about how long it took just for the water to erode away at the surface to form the deep pockets, cracks and grooves.
And of course, you can see the erosion at work when the spring rains fill up Queer Creek near Old Man's Cave and she pours her excess into what we call Cedar Falls.
But you might want the strength of a glacier to help you out too. Although the glaciers didn't quite make it to the park, the kind of plants that existed during the glacial period are still found in the deep gorges. The huge hemlocks, black birch and Canada yew are all signs of the gorge's cool past.
Okay, so you don't want to wait around a few million years to see some more changes in the land? No big deal. Neither did Richard Rowe.
If you're wondering who that is, he's the hermit who local folk say used to live in Old Man's Cave more than a hundred years ago. Legend tells that he accidentally shot himself with his own gun and is buried in one of the caves.
But before him, there were lots more folks who visited the Hocking Hills Region. More than 7000 years ago, the Adena Culture left evidence of their sojourns to the park.
In the 1700's Indian tribes like the Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee traveled through or lived in this area.
In the 1830's a powder mill was built near Rock House and there was a grist mill at Cedar Falls. In the early 1900's Rockhouse had a hotel in operation and Ash Cave was a popular gathering for church-goers whose preachers used the large rock near the recess entrance as a pulpit.
In 1924, the State of Ohio purchased the first parcel of 146 acres which included Old Man's Cave. Until the Department of Natural Resources was created in 1949 and a new Division of Parks assumed control of Hocking Hills State Park, the lands purchased existed under the Department of Forestry. A dining lodge and cabins were opened in 1972. Today, the park features a seasonal dining lodge, cabins, camping, hiking, picnicking and year around naturalist programs.