Categories
Roadside America

Crystal Grottoes Caverns in Boonsboro, Maryland

Tour Maryland’s only show cave in this delightful throwback to America’s roadside attractions.

This small demonstration cave is Maryland’s largest cavern open to the public. It contains more formations per square foot than any other explored cave, and it’s among the most naturally preserved caverns in the world, with a constant temperature of 54 degrees.

Crystal Grottoes formed in Tomstown Dolomite over millions of years. The cellar is mostly horizontal and the corridors are generally high and narrow. Its floors are brown and red clay; sediment covers several passages within one to two feet of the ceiling. 

The 30-35 minute tour covers 900 feet of its passages, or about one-third of the total cave space. There are no streams, although steadily dripping water collects into a small “lake” or tub.

Categories
Mysterious America

The Legend of Bonapartes Cave

Missing jewels, exiled European royalty, old bones, and a lakeside cave make this unassuming spot one of Upstate New York’s most enduring mysteries.

Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844), older brother of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, saw his fortunes rise and fall with his more famous brother. He once reigned as monarch over two kingdoms, amassing a small fortune before Napoleon’s downfall. How did a lake in northern New York come to be named after him?

In 1794, Joseph, a French lawyer and diplomat, married Marie-Julie Clary, and in 1806 Napoleon crowned him King of Naples. During the ill-fated French occupation of Spain, he reigned as King of Spain and the Indies. After Napoleon’s defeat and exile in 1814, Joseph fled to Switzerland with a trove of diamonds and jewels, but made plans to leave Europe. Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 sealed his fate, and Joseph landed in America in August 1815 under the assumed name “Count de Survilliers”.

James Le Ray de Chaumont, son of a prominent French supporter of American independence, had purchased large tracts of land in northern New York and the Delaware Valley, where many French aristocrats had fled after the French Revolution. Using his stolen wealth, Joseph purchased land along the Black River in Upstate New York from James Le Ray. He named the lake at the heart of his Black River property Diana, but it would come to be known as Lake Bonaparte.

Categories
Roadside America

Discover West Virginia’s Lost World Caverns

Natural history and a taste of the fantastic awaits you at this subterranean roadside attraction.

Adults and children alike will enjoy this 1/2-mile loop through towering stalagmites and stalactites 235 feet underground. Walk through a continuous room over 1,000 feet long and 120 feet high, slowly hollowed out over millions of years, draining into the nearby Greenbrier River. Stairs, ramps, and railings make the basic tour a breeze for anyone not in a wheel chair.

Lost World Caverns was discovered in 1942, though local farmers had been using its entrance to dump dead livestock and trash for decades. They had no idea what lay just under the surface until scientists from  Virginia Tech began to explore what was then known as “Grapevine Cave”. It was surveyed in the 1960s, and in 1967 the remains of a prehistoric cave bear were discovered.

In the 1970s, the cavern was developed for commercial tourism and in 1973 the National Park Service designated it a National Natural Landmark. Since then, Lost World Caverns has attracted the sensational. In 1971, a man named Bob Addis set the World Record for “Stalagmite Sitting” atop a 28-foot formation called the War Club, and in 1992 the infamous tabloid Weekly World News reported that “Bat Boy” had been caught living in the cave.

Categories
Mysterious America Video

A Trip to Bonaparte’s Cave State Forest

In 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte’s eldest brother, Joseph, who Napoleon installed as king of Spain for several years, fled Europe to the wilderness in Upstate New York. His property became Lake Bonaparte and Bonaparte’s Cave State Forest, located off New York State Route 3 northwest of Harrisville.

According to local legend, his family eluded hired assassins by hiding out in the rocky ledges and small caves on the northwest edge of what is today known as Green Pond. He also supposedly hid Spanish treasure nearby. The following video is my first attempt to make a travel/adventure video. Enjoy!