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.

Ash Cave -Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

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.

There have been 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. Legends say that trappers once used the recess cave in the park. One such trapper left his mark, and such the cave would later be nicknamed for him. His legend goes something like this:

Old Man's Cave, Hocking Hills

In 1907, a story was printed in the Democrat Sentinel about two boys who were exploring the caves near Cedar Grove and not far from Logan, Ohio. After a while, they grew tired and built a small fire on a ledge inside a recess cave. They were talking about their adventures of the day while the small flame danced above the kindling they had collected. Upon hearing a rustling in the leaves like footsteps, they paused to look up and were startled by the image of an elderly man. He had stopped near the fire appearing quite curious about their conversation. The boys were also nearly dumbstruck by his peculiar appearance--he had a long gray beard and old-fashioned clothing of leather including moccasins on his feet. He also had a gun slung over his shoulder. Nearby, a huge, white hound had stopped beside him. Upon the boys noticing his presence, the old man slipped quietly past as if he didn’t want to alarm them, and eventually disappeared into the oozy darkness of the far side of the cave, seeming to sink into the sandy ground.

Quite unsettled, the boys ran home to their families and told them of the ghostly man who had appeared to them in the cave. Immediately, picks and shovels were hoisted to shoulders, and a group of curious townspeople went to the cave and began to draw out the dirt where the old man disappeared. The ground appeared sunken into a room about four feet square. Within and about three feet down, they discovered a box. As they lifted the lid, they discovered the mummified remains of a man and a dog, almost as lifelike as if they had just crawled inside. However, it had been many years since the man and dog had died. There were also cooking utensils, a flintlock gun, and a pot with information about the old man’s life. It appeared he was a trapper along the Cedar Valley Creek who died in 1777. Although the old man's name was given as Retzler, and the name of his dog was Harper, and his gun, Pointer, most will know him as The Old Man of Old Man’s Cave. Throughout the years, many have seen his ghostly figure walking with his dog through the cave at Hocking Hills State Park that bears his nickname. He has come upon hunters and fisherpersons at Rose Lake as a white figure with a baying hound in the misty air of dawn. He has been seen by early picnickers and hikers at Lower Falls walking with his dog. Even today, some claim to see him moseying along the trail during daylight hours with his dog just like the boys in the early 1900s watched him disappear in the cave.

Historic Old Man's Cave

Later and 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.

 

Ash Cave Hocking Hills State Park

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 cabins, camping, hiking, picnicking and year around naturalist programs. Although the original lodge burned down in 2016, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the former day lodge and dining hall will be replaced with an updated facility that will include overnight lodging, a conference center, dining and day-use accommodations.

Hocking Hills State Park LodgeAlmost four million hikers come to the park to enjoy its many wonders and making their mark on history by visiting Old Man's Cave and the Hocking Hills.