Ash Cave, Ohio's largest stone recess, stretches 700 feet across and rises 90 feet high.
The rock shelter was created when ground water percolating through the sandstone eroded away the formation's weaker middle layer, undercutting the resistant top layer which forms the ceiling of the "cave." The water dissolves away the cement which holds individual grains of sand together. Seasonal freezing and thawing causes expansion and contraction which further loosen the particles and on rare occasion, blocks of stone, until they break off. The falls also contributes to the slow erosive process.
Archeological excavation of the site in 1877 yielded sticks, arrows, stalks of coarse grasses, flint artifacts, pottery fragments, corn cobs, and the bones of a variety of animals. From subsequent excavations, we know the native habitants once hunted elk and black bear in addition to deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, and duck. Once the home of the Wyandots, by the 1790's, settlers were moving into the area and began clearing the land for farming. Area streams powered gristmills and saltpeter used in the manufacture of gunpowder was mined by early settlers. By 1990, the last remaining relics of virgin forest existed only in the secret hollows and steepest cliffs where they were safe from the woodsman's axe and the farmer's plow.
cool, damp gorges also preserved a trove of treasure from Ohio's geologic past, mimicking the climate that existed here thousands of years ago when glaciers imported the eastern hemlock, Canada yew, mountain laurel and other flora and fauna of more northern climes into the region.
Recognized for its excellent acoustics, including a "whispering gallery", Ash Cave became the site for a variety of public meetings and gatherings in the 1800s. As late as 1886, the floor of the shelter was still covered with ashes, causing speculation that early settlers manufactured gunpowder here. Excavated artifacts suggest that the ashes were the accumulated remains of countless campfires used by the Native Americans who inhabited the shelter for untold centuries. Regardless of the actual cause, or causes, this striking geologic feature, Ash Cave, took its name from those ashes, the certain source of which will likely forever remain a mystery.