Oligo-Nunk Cave System - History


The group of caves on Honeycomb Mountain offered to both the mere pleasure seeker and to those interested in geological investigation and research, unusual opportunities. A gentleman, whose attainments in a geological line were well-known at the time (early 1900s), said, after a visit to Oligo-Nunk, that its layers of rocks, its various foundations, were the best for study that he had ever known in this part of the United States. He spoke particularly of the individuality of the various strata, and commented on how people fortunate enough to visit the caves to treasure it.

Until the early 1900s, the C & O railway had been operating the cave system for many years as a profitable venture. The company had in service multiple trains' weekly and special trains that were running to the community of Carter City for the sole purpose of visiting the caves on Honeycomb Mountain. When Mr. J.F. Lewis purchased the property in the early 1900s he had no immediate intentions of continuing the cave tours at both the Carter Caves and the Honeycomb Mountain Caves. So it was decided upon that the Honeycomb Mountain Cave tour operation would be suspended completely and that no visitors would be permitted.

After oversupply torpedoed much of his tobacco-farming industry, the older Lewis turned the property back into public caving destination during the 1920s. He improved passages, installed drainage tile, and reopened the pavilion. This enabled Mr. Lewis to have a strong hold on the tourism business in the area. However this venture back into operation lasted only for a short period before being once again closed to the general public. The family divested itself and focused time and resources towards more profitable business ventures.

At the present time the caves are a piece of private property held closely by the Lewis family. Originally four caves were open for the study and pleasure of those who visited them. (Eventually surveyors discovered those caves to be connected together in one large system.) Engineers and skilled artisans originally entered the caves and every obstruction that marred the beauty of the scene, or broke the perfection of a series, was removed. In some places stairways were erected to facilitate the study of the caves. Unfortunately it is still their outlook that the caves should remain closed to the public due to the total cost of operations not outweighing the revenue generated from visitors. The family wishes for people to respect their decision and to not infringe upon their privacy.

It is also important to respect the home of multiple bat species that give the Oligo-Nunk Cave system as their address during the hibernation months of the year. This is a collection of several different species including the Indiana and Gray Bat, both on the Federal Endangered Species list.

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