In Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, a city about 35 minutes west of Madison, there’s a tourist attraction that’s 50 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, no matter what the temperature is outside. It’s called Cave of the Mounds and it’s a worthwhile spot to carve out some time for if you’re ever in the area.
I visited the cave during the summer while I was in Madison for a couple of days. There isn’t any public transit between the two cities, so I rented a car and drove there.
Tickets for an hour-long guided tour cost $17.95 for adults, but I think it’s a reasonable price to pay, considering the cave began forming 1 to 2 million years ago, while the rock dates back to more than 400 million years ago.
Cave of the Mounds was accidentally discovered in 1939 during a quarry blast. It opened up to the public in 1940 and has been visited by millions of people since then. In 1988, it was designated a National Natural Landmark.
One of the highlights of the tour is the Painted Waterfall and Reflecting Pool in the East Cave.
But probably the most captivating section of the attraction is the Cathedral Room.
According to the guide, there was actually a couple that got married down in the cave! How neat!
Another cool part of the tour is that you get to experience pitch-black darkness. When the guide switches the lights off, you really cannot see a single thing, which puts into context how bats use echolocation to navigate completely dark spaces.
I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of Cave of the Mounds and would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t already been! I think it’s worth noting that to help preserve the cave, visitors aren’t allowed to touch anything, except for a small part, which will be indicated by the guide at the beginning of the tour. Also, depending on what kind of temperature you’re used to, I’d consider bringing a light jacket. If you’re used to 50 degrees, then you’ll be fine 🙂
There was one aspect of the tour, however, that I disliked, which was that there wasn’t ample time to take photographs. Although the tour guide made clear that “you can take as many pictures as you like,” it felt like we were always being rushed to move onto the next stop.
If you enjoy taking photographs like me, then that’s pretty upsetting. I didn’t have time to ask anyone else in the group to take my photo in front of the nicer sections of the cave. In the beginning, there’s a place where they take your photo but it’s in front of a bland-looking background. At the end of the tour, you can buy the print for $9.99+tax. (I caved in – no pun intended – and got it because I didn’t have any other photos with me in them.)
While that’s something I didn’t like, I understand that’s how the attraction makes some money: if you can’t take good pics on your own, then you might be inclined to buy a postcard at the gift shop and spend $10 on a medium-sized print of yourself in the cave (like I did).
Regardless of this one shortcoming, Cave of the Mounds is an excellent attraction. I have no regrets setting aside some time to tour the cave and would go back if I have the chance to again.
For photo enthusiasts/photographers who come here: adjust your aperture and shutter speed early on in the tour, and be as quick as you can be with snapping photographs!