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Bonnechere Caves: The Hidden World Beneath Eganville, Ontario

Have you ever felt the allure of the underground world beckoning you to explore its secrets? Ontarios Bonnechere Caves offer a rare opportunity to witness geological history come to life as you venture through winding passages and awe-inspiring rock formations. Nestled in Eganville, Ontario, this hidden gem is a must-see destination for adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. In this article, we will find out what the Bonnechere Caves are about, what to expect during your visit, notable features to check out, and tips to make your caving experience memorable. So, let’s step into the unknown and uncover what lies beneath the surface.

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Where Are the Bonnechere Caves Located?

Just 2 hours outside of Ottawa or approximately 4 hours from the GTA, in the Bonnechere Township, is a small village named Eganville. It is here that you will find the Bonnechere Caves. The formal address for the Bonnechere Caves is 1247 Fourth Chute Road, Eganville, Ontario.

What are the Bonnechere Caves Hours and Admission Costs?

From the May long weekend to Labour Day, the caves are open daily from 10 am to 4 pm, with tours every 20 to 30 minutes.

After Labour Day, the caves are open on weekends until the end of the Thanksgiving weekend from 10 am to 4 pm.

NOTE for 2023: Perhaps call ahead, the heavy rainfalls and quick snowmelt have caused issues at the caves that may delay opening this year. The tour operator’s website is found here.

Entrance Fees

The cost to visit the caves, which includes tax and parking, is as follows:

Adults: $22
Seniors (65+): $20
Youth (13 – 17): $15
Children (4 – 12): $14
Under 4: Free

Are the Bonnechere Caves Pet-Friendly?

Unfortunately, your pets are not allowed in the cave. You can, however, leash your pet to the fence line. The staff was kind enough to check in on our dog.

The History of the Bonnechere Caves

BushLife - Bonnechere River
View of the Bonnechere River From Outside the Caves

As you prepare for your journey into the Bonnechere Caves, it is worth taking a moment to delve into the history of this incredible natural wonder. The caves were carved into the limestone bedrock over millions of years by the Bonnechere River, which still flows through the underground tunnels. It was not until 1955 when Tom Woodward discovered the caves and had them drained to open them as a tourist attraction, which has been wowing visitors ever since.

Over the years, many legends and myths have sprung up around the Bonnechere Caves. Some believe that the notorious outlaw Jesse James used the caves as a hideout, while others claim that the ghost of a young girl who drowned in the nearby river haunts the caves. Whatever the truth, there is no denying that the Bonnechere Caves have a steep history and mystery.

During your visit, you will explore the caves with a knowledgeable guide who will share even more fascinating facts and stories about their geological and cultural significance. The guide that we had on our trip was super friendly, funny and very informative. Our guide also took the time to answer questions and allowed us to experience the caves without being rushed.

How Long Are the Tours at the Bonnechere Caves

Open from the May long weekend to the Thanksgiving weekend, the staff at the Bonnechere Caves offer tours every 20 – 30 minutes. These tours are an hour long and offer insights into the features and history of the caves, as well as different types of fossils found in the Bonnechere Caves. You will also catch a glimpse of the Bonnechere River and have plenty of opportunities to hike the Bonnechere hiking trails. Oh, and don’t worry if you forgot to bring water or snacks – there is a small onsite gift shop with the basics.

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What to Expect When Visiting the Caves

BushLife - Bonnechere Cave Passage
Bonnechere Caves Passage in Eganville, Ontario

After a briefing on the area and fossils, you will enter the caves via a staircase. Once inside, expect the cave floor to be wet and slippery in certain areas. I highly recommend you wear running shoes or shoes with a good gripping sole. Second, the inside temperature of the caves is cold, even during the summer months. Make sure you bring a sweater or a light jacket to stay comfortable. And lastly, do not forget to bring a water bottle. The caves are accessible for all ages but are not stroller-friendly. It would be advisable to bring a baby carrier.

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BushLife - Bonnechere Cave Exit
Bonnechere Cave Exit

If you are afraid of being in a dark cave, you can rest easy knowing the path is ambient with lights. However, during the last leg of the tour, your guide will turn off the lights, immersing you in the whole experience of what Mike Brophy felt when he discovered the caves. It is not for the faint of heart if you are afraid, but it is quite the experience.

Are There Bats at the Bonnechere Caves?

During the summer months, you will not encounter any bats. Should you wish to see them, as per the tour guide, your best bet is to tour the caves in late September.

Notable Features Inside the Bonnechere Caves to Look Out For

BushLife - Stalactites Inside the Bonnechere Caves
Formation of Stalactites (Rock Icicles) Inside the Bonnechere Cave

As you wind through the Bonnechere Caves, your guide will point out the awe-inspiring formations that have slowly sculpted over thousands of years. One of the most notable features is the stunning curtain formations that line a portion of the cave walls. These curtains are formed from mineral deposits and hang in beautiful, delicate drapes.

Our favourite discovery was seeing these numerous stalactites, also known as rock icicles. These icicles form at a rate of one cubic inch per 150 years and hang from the ceiling. They are not to be touched, as touching them stuns their growth.

The cave walls are cold and wet, and as you run your hand over them, you will occasionally come across embedded fossils of sea creatures and corals. There is nothing like experiencing the feel of a fossilized octopus, cephalopod, brachiopod, gastropod or crinoid ring. The intricate patterns on the walls and the small crevices and holes throughout the cave are habitats for several species, including bats.

Throughout the tour, you’ll come across narrow passageways that make you feel like an adventurer on a quest.

Once outside, look out for the “bear pit,” a deep chamber thought to be a trap for hunting bears.

Tips for a Successful Caving Experience

To fully enjoy and appreciate the wonder of the Eganvilles Bonnechere Caves, it’s advisable to follow a few tips. First and foremost, always stay close to your guide. They are there to ensure your safety and help you navigate through the passages. Without them, you might miss some of the most spectacular features of the cave.

Secondly, take your time. The caves are not going anywhere – rushing through them will only hinder your experience. Take a moment to appreciate the natural beauty, the colours, and the sounds of the underground streams. And, of course, do not forget to bring your camera! Photography is permissible in the caves.

As mentioned above, do not forget to wear appropriate footwear and clothing. The caves can be wet and slippery, so sturdy shoes with good grip are essential. And don’t forget to bring a sweater or light jacket, as the cave’s temperature is cool and damp.

Finally, be respectful of the environment. The caves are a delicate ecosystem with unique flora and fauna. Do not touch or remove any of the formations, and follow the guidelines for waste disposal.

If you are feeling adventurous, Bonnechere holds numerous events throughout the season, including an underground dining experience, which is a must.

Eganville’s Fourth Chute Waterfall

Fourth Chute, Eganville Ontario
Fourth Chute in Eganville, Ontario

After exploring the Bonnechere Caves, take a stroll across the street. It is here that you will find the Fourth Chute Falls. Find a spot, relax and take in the sounds of the falls and nature itself.

A Little About the Bonnechere River

The Bonnechere River, which flows from Algonquin Park to the Ottawa River, has five chutes. One of which is the Fourth Chute. The Fourth Chute is a waterfall that flows over a series of rocks and creates a stunning cascade of water that drops over 10 meters. The Bonnechere River has a rich logging history. Some of its remnants are still visible today.

While Fourth Chute is a marvel, it is also an enjoyable spot for outdoor enthusiasts. You can spend hours exploring the natural beauty of the area. There are opportunities for hiking, fishing and swimming. The large, flat rocks beside the falls offer a unique spot for a picnic, allowing you to take in the peaceful sounds of the waterfall. 

RELATED: Discover the Hidden Beauty of Egan Chutes Provincial Park

A Final Thought on the Bonnechere Caves in Eganville, Ontario

The Bonnechere Caves, located in Eganville, Ontario, is an exceptional and unforgettable destination you shouldn’t miss. The place showcases awe-inspiring rock formations and captivating fossils, along with the Fourth Chute waterfalls, providing a glimpse into our planet’s geological history that is both surreal and fascinating.

So, if you are passionate about history, geology, or adventure, then this is the perfect experience for you! Grab your most comfortable shoes and jacket, and pack a picnic basket to enjoy the beauty of the Bonnechere Caves and its surroundings to the fullest.

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Katherine Widziak
Katherine Widziak

Fuelled by the boundless energy of my two adventurous children, my diverse repertoire extends beyond the realms of an ordinary mother. As a seasoned graphic designer, master of social media content, and savvy marketing strategist, I've sculpted my own entrepreneurial journey. My passion for the great outdoors defines me - from igniting fires to setting up camps, my skills are diverse and practical. Skilled in ATV riding, possessing sharpshooting accuracy, and a knack for out-fishing just about any man - even my husband, though that's our little secret.

When not working away at something creative, you'll find me enjoying the outdoors in one form or another. Hopefully, I can inspire many women and men alike to pursue their outdoor goals and embark on new adventures.

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