Saltpetre Cave Cave Nature Preserve

Interior of Cave 2 with waterfall – Click image to enlarge


Saltpetre Cave Nature Preserve is a small but beautiful area located in Hocking State Forest, Hocking County Ohio.  The preserve gets its name from the fact that the mineral saltpetre was mined from the caves a long time ago.  Potassium nitrate is one of several nitrogen-containing compounds referred to as saltpeter.  The major uses of potassium nitrate are in fertilizers, food additives, rocket propellants and fireworks; it is one of the constituents of gunpowder and why it was mined from the caves originally.

Within the preserve there are 4 caves and 7 distinct recesses. The view above is from the second level interior of cave 2 which has 3 tiers in all.  I used an external flash to light the dark interior of the cave to reveal details in the cave walls and ceiling.  I don’t normally carry flash equipment with me when I’m hiking, but since I knew I would be photographing inside the caves, I brought my flash on this hike. Without using the flash, the cave’s interior would have been completely dark compared to the bright exterior.  If you look closely at the top left of the image, you can see some saltpetre in the ceiling of the cave.  The waterfall you see at the right side of the image is seasonal and only occurs if the has been enough rainfall.  I was fortunate to visit the preserve after an inch or so of rain had fallen in the area so the waterfall was definitely a  bonus and adds a lot to the image!  Moving outside the cave and down the hill I captured the image below by positioning the camera low to the ground with a wide angle lens and close to the lichen and moss covered tree roots to create a more dramatic image with the waterfall in the background.

Lichen and moss covered tree roots with waterfall – Click image to enlarge


To visit the nature preserve you must obtain a permit issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  The permit should be requested at least 14 days prior to the day you want to visit.  Information about obtaining the permit can be found here.

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