WATERLOO — Illinois Caverns reopened to the public Wednesday after being closed for 10 years.
Located south of Waterloo, Illinois Caverns was closed in 2010 as a precaution against the spread of White-nose Syndrome, a fatal disease that affects certain types of bats.
"We certainly didn't like to see the site closed, but the closure did allow us to complete some necessary work to ensure the safety and enjoyment of our visitors once we reopen," said Von Bandy, director, Office of Land Management for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Illinois Caverns will be open seasonally from April through October. Weekly, the site will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"There is no other site like this in the entire state of Illinois. It is right here," said Colleen Callahan, director of the Department of Natural Resources. "As I went through I kept saying how fun this will be for kids, and I felt like a kid. It's a whole other experience to actually see it and feel it in person."
Cave explorer Joe Light, president of Meramec Valley Grotto, one of the largest cave exploration clubs in the Midwest, is excited that the cave is reopening.
"Illinois Caverns has been a treasure enjoyed by generations of residents," stated Light. "The cave also provides an excellent adventure for youth groups, Boy Scout troops, and numerous other visitors and may inspire the youth of Illinois to pursue the study of biology, geology, and other sciences."
Visitors will be required to have the mandatory safety equipment, fill out a permit, and pass a gear inspection before entry. Groups of 25 or more must preregister.
The cave has been left in its natural state, said Mic Middleton, site superintendent of Illinois Caverns. "It is not like a Meramec Caverns or Ruby Falls, those famous caves. It is a natural cave with natural landscape. The steps, just going down are steep, is just not for everybody to do it. Safety is the main thing and we want to stress that."
Things to know before you go:
- Illinois Caverns is at 4369 G Road, Waterloo, IL 62298
- Days and hours of operation: Illinois Caverns is open to visitors with valid permits, seasonally from April through October, Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please be sure to check the website www.dnr.state.il.us to verify current hours of operation. No one is permitted to enter or remain in the cave after 3 p.m. The site (except the cave) remains open until 4 p.m.
- Group Size: Minimum of four persons.
- A group of 25 or more must preregister for permits prior to arrival.
- Youth groups require one adult leader for each five minors.
- Visitors agree to use adequate safety equipment that will be inspected before entering cave.
- Required equipment per person includes, three battery-powered sources of light, appropriate footwear with treaded sole, and suitable protective clothing. The use of hard hats or plastic protective head gear is required.
- Illinois Caverns is a substantially wild, unimproved cave system. There are many potential hazards associated with the use of the area and there may be hidden, as well as apparent, dangers.
- In the case of unsafe caving conditions, the cave will be closed by site staff