| Jul 06, 2006

Feature Article - July 6, 2006

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Feature Article - July 6, 2006

Eganville Museum and Bonnechere Caves

by Carol Morrow

Instead of its regular June meeting at the Barrie Hall on June 17, the Cloyne and District Historical Society enjoyed a bus trip to the Eganville Museum and Bonnechere Caves .


The historical society was greeted at the Bonnechere Museum by volunteer Shelley McCloud who explained the set-up and the mandate of the exhibits. Eganville’s early history was based on lumbering; then as time went by, small industries grew up in the town to serve the population, and now tourism has developed in the area. The feature that unites the area from Algonquin Park to the Ottawa Valley is the Bonnechere River . Logs floated downriver for export through the Ottawa River , mills and businesses sprung up on the banks in town and along its course.

The Museum opened in 2002 but already over 5000 artifacts have been collected, many of them on display on two floors. On the main level are displays on the railroad, the military, civic leaders, church history, and geology. The central feature downstairs is the famous McIntyre Pump. Upstairs is a tool room and a barber shop display; in another corner is a small school room; a closet is given over to an early bridal display. A separate small room gives the pioneer woman’s display a clothesline of underwear, drying rack of blankets and quilts, round old-fashioned wood stove, wool carder and old knitting machine, as well as a great many dishes and kitchen utensils. The displays were neatly categorized and meaningfully arranged in a bright, inviting setting.

After a delicious lunch, the Cloyne group clambered aboard their yellow coach and set off for the Bonnechere Caves . Some members were a bit apprehensive about being spelunkers, but our host Chris Hinsperger soon set their minds at ease with a brief explanation of the physical aspects of the underground trip, and also gave some background history of the caves, which are young in cave years, only a few hundred thousand compared to millions. There are about a dozen different species of fossils in the limestone in and around the caves, and five underground passages which constitute the caves themselves, only two of which are navigable.

Exploring the caves was fascinating. Handrails, good lighting, and a sturdy boardwalk map out the underground route. We proceeded gradually downward into the bowels of the earth; water dripped from the ceiling, forming stalactites overhead, and trickled constantly along the natural course beneath the planks of the walkway. We could also hear the steady low rumble of the water pumps. Our tour guide explained that in the winter the pumps are off and the passages become flooded with water. The caves have a steady temperature all year round of about 10 to 12 degrees, thus there is running water in the winter. Without the lighting, there is absolute darkness inside the caves. Tom Woodward explored those caves while they were flooded in 1953 with only a rubber dingy, a flashlight and a rope before opening up the site as a tourist attraction two years later.

The excursion was very informative. We highly recommend this for anyone interested in the history and attractions of the Eganville area.

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