Onyx Cave celebrates 50 years
Mary Beth Sallee
Reporter, Hart Co. News-Herald
With only four months left in 2021, Onyx Cave is continuing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its discovery.
Every cave tour ticket purchase will include a 5″ x 7″ anniversary postcard. Anniversary t-shirts are also being sold.
“It is exciting to celebrate this milestone,” Missy Shields said of the cave’s anniversary. “My two favorite places in the cave are featured on the 50th-anniversary postcard…One of those places looks like a giant frozen waterfall of various shades of orange flowstone. The other place has cave coral covering the stalactites, the cave bacon, and the other formations in a room. The water glistens as it drips from the ceiling of the cave.”
Shields began working at Onyx Cave 21 years ago as a cave guide. After being co-owner of the cave for five years alongside original owner Dan Broady, Shields became the sole owner of Onyx Cave in January of this year after Broady’s retirement.
Onyx Cave was discovered in 1971 when a parking lot was being built for a train ride and other various amusement park rides at the original Guntown Mountain, which opened in 1970.
“As a portion of Huckleberry Knob was being cleared for a parking lot, a series of cave openings was discovered,” Shields said. “…The cave had no natural entrances and was not accessible until it was accidentally discovered…Local cave explorer Cleon Turner helped the cave’s original owner, Dan Broady, develop the cave for tours, which began in 1973.”
Onyx Cave is the newest cave in south central Kentucky to be discovered and then opened for cave tours.
The tour at Onyx Cave is great for all ages. As a shorter cave tour that lasts about 30 to 35 minutes, it has fewer stairs than most of the area show caves.
“The cave is small but beautiful,” Shields said. “The walls are covered in delicate cave coral and beautiful flowstone made of orange, yellow, and white onyx deposits…The walls of Onyx Cave look like something you would see at a coral reef at the bottom of the ocean. Cave coral forms differently than ocean coral but they look similar.”
“The cave features tall, canyon-like passageways,” Shields continued. “…The canyon passageways are very different than the traditional oval-shaped tubular passageways seen in most of the local caves. There are places in the cave that are 38 1/2 feet tall.”
According to Shields, the cave is well lit and beautiful for pictures.
“The unique canyon passageways that are covered in cave coral and flowstone make this cave different than the other seven cave tours and are worth taking pictures of, so bring your camera on the tour,” Shields said. “Flash photography is allowed on the cave tour…The cave is one of my favorites to photograph because it is so different.”
In addition to cave tours, the Onyx Cave Rock Shop is also onsite, having opened in 2005 just outside of the cave’s entrance. The shop features a variety of rocks, fossils, jewelry, and mineral specimens available for purchase.
“We sell geodes from Kentucky, Brazil, and Morocco,” Shields said. “The difference between the same type of rock from different locations is stunning. The Kentucky geodes are mostly full of orange or yellow-colored quartz. The Brazilian geodes feature shades of purple amethyst crystals. The Moroccan geodes are mostly pure white quartz crystals that sparkle as you walk past them.”
This year, the shop also began selling local artwork.
“We started selling original paintings by two Glasgow artists, Terry Brooks and Sharon DeGiovanni, and handmade stained glass bats by an artist from Fort Knox, Tammy Cundiff,” Shields said. “The artwork really brightens up the shop.”
Onyx Cave is located at 93 Huckleberry Knob Road in Cave City, adjacent to Guntown Mountain and across the street from Dinosaur World. For additional photos and information, visit the cave’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/onyxcave or its website at www.onyxcave.com.
The Onyx Cave and Rock Shop can also be reached at 270-773-2323.