Approximately halfway between the famous Algonquin Provincial Park and capital city of Ottawa, you’ll come across the Bonnechere Caves. This stunning geological site is one of the best examples in the world of solution caves, which means they have been dissolved out of the solid rock by acidic waters.
Dating back to the Ordovician time period of the Paleozioc era, this fascinating cave system is thought to have been formed between 400 and 500 million years ago from the limestone floor of a vast sea. Squeeze through the damp, narrow passageways to explore intriguing fossils and geological wonders within the caves.
When Tom Woodward first discovered the caves in 1955, he explored them and drained them, enabling them to be opened up to the public. The caves have since become a popular visitor site and tours and operations are run by a small, family-owned business.
Chris and Val Hinsperger, current owners of the Bonnechere Caves site and tour company, ensure that visitors enjoy a safe, educational and entertaining tour of the natural wonder. Tours are suited for people of all ages.
During your tour, you’ll be able to spot fossilized coral, ancient sea creatures — including an octopus — gastropods, cephalopods, crinoid rings and brachiopods, and more in the walls of the caves. If you come in late September, you may also observe early hibernating bats.
The caves are located near Eganville, Ontario, a small community in the limestone valley along the Bonnechere River in Renfrew County.
For up-to-date information and details on Bonnechere Caves, we recommend you visit their website. For information about other places of interest to explore nearby, keep scrolling to see what Destination Ontario recommends.
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More about Bonnechere Caves
The geological wonder of the Bonnechere Caves in Douglas, Ontario, near the better-known Eganville, has been welcoming curious guests from around the globe for over half a century. The caves were discovered in 1955 and first explored by Tom Woodward at the time. The Bonnechere Caves are named for their location on the Fourth Chute of the Bonnechere River in Ottawa Valley.
Visitors are invited to explore the caves on a guided tour. Reservations are not necessary, as the tour group keeps plenty of staff on hand for guiding tours whenever people are ready.
When you go on the tour, it’s recommended that you wear a light jacket in summer and warmer jackets and coats in cooler seasons. Low-heeled shoes are required.
It’s important to note that the caves have a set of stairs leading down into the depths. Another stairwell returns you back to above ground after the tour. This means, unfortunately, that the caves have limited accessibility and are not stroller or wheelchair friendly. A backpack baby carrier for infants is recommended.
While you’re in the caves, photography is welcome and flashlights are encouraged. Visitors will enjoy the white waters of the waterfall within the caves, along with the many unusual flowstones, stalactites, stalagmites and features along the way.
As you begin the tour, you’ll see a covered area that’s filled with fossils and informational signs depicting the history of the region. The guides have expert knowledge of the fossils, as well, and share their discoveries and knowledge with visitors all throughout the tour.
The walls of the Bonnechere Caves are narrow and many of the rooms have low ceilings, so be careful not to hit your head. Many sections of the tour require single-file lines, while others are wide enough to walk side-by-side with partners or kids.
During your tour, the guide will turn off all light sources to help you soak in the reality of how truly dark the cave is.
Another point of interest apart from the caves is the sinkhole. The trail leading out of the cave brings you up past the sinkhole on the left.
While you’re above ground, your leashed pets are welcome to join you in the picnic area, where several picnic tables accommodate visitors. If you forget to pack a lunch, there is an on-site snack bar offering soft drinks, ice cream and snacks, along with souvenirs and science-geared gifts.
If you’re visiting with kids, the Bonnechere Cave Fossil Hunts are a great opportunity to help the kids engage in exploration and geology. The cave team puts together a two-hour fossil finding events several times a year. The events include a cave tour and a hunt for fossils that still haven’t been found in the area.
Other semi-regular special events at the caves include underground concerts and intimate dinners. The events are exceptionally popular, so planning ahead is vital to ensure your ticket.
The Bonnechere Caves hosts several Underground Dining events each year. The meal is a four-course dinner, with a bottle of wine, accompanied by music, and a guided tour of the caves. This is another popular event, so reservations ahead of time will ensure you’re able to get a table.