By Alex, PAWV VISTA
Smoke Hole Caverns is located in Grant County on Route 55, between Seneca Rocks and Petersburg, WV. Formed over 200 million years ago from an underground stream, this extensive cavern is named “Smoke Hole” by early settlers after the smoke that often wafted out of the cave when the Seneca Indians it for smoking meats.
Because of the vastness of the cave and separated rooms, it was often used as shelter. During the Civil War both Union and Confederate soldiers used it as a resting place. Later, use of the caverns included the making of West Virginia corn whiskey. It is speculated that as many as 20 moonshine stills operated at one time. An original still remains on display and can be seen as part of the tour.
The caverns opened to commercial visitors in May 1942 and have been open for tours ever since. Smoke Hole Caverns is also home to the world’s largest ribbon stalactite, measuring 16 feet long, 13 feet wide, and weighs approximately 2.5 tons. Other features include ‘Crystal Cave Coral Pool’, the ‘Queen’s Canopy,’ and the ‘Room of a Million Stalactites.’ Smoke Hole Caverns has some of the highest ceiling clearances in the world, making the tour and easy walk through the underground.
The Smoke Hole Caverns tour is a guided tour lasting approximately an hour. A guided tour is the only way of viewing the caverns. Visitors are told to bring a jacket as the cave stays at 56 degrees year round. Prices for the tour are the following: $15.00 Adults, $13.00 Senior Citizens/ Military Personnel, $10.00 Children (Ages 5 thru 12 years of age) and no charge for children under the age of 4.
A large and elaborate gift shop stands beside the caverns. Tickets for the tour can be purchased here. The gift shop features many West Virginia souvenirs and a café. In November 2009, the gift shop and restaurant suffered a devastating fire but have since rebuilt and are now a thriving WV tourist stop, known as the largest gift shop in West Virginia.
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