Cave Country Canoes opens for season
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]
Milltown’s Cave Country Canoes has played a central role in Crawford County summers for almost four decades. COVID-19 delayed this year’s opening by a month and ushered in a new way of doing business. Manager Sherri Nail is thrilled the season is finally getting underway and is hopeful for a good summer.
“I don’t think we’re going to see the volume we’ve seen in the past, but we’re still going to be up and going,” she said.
Nail said the staff — Cave Country employs about 60 at the peak of the season — has been trained in disinfecting and safety measures, and the company is utilizing technology to lessen crowding in the store.
“For the first time ever, reservations and payments can all be done online from the comfort of your living room,” said Nail.
Once on site, customers check in, receive a wristband and get on the bus.
“The bus is where the real work comes in,” said Nail.
Cave Country purchased a Vector fogger, which is used to mist the interior of the buses with disinfectant several times a day. Buses are cleaned after each trip. Also, to help reduce exposure, Nail said guests will be asked to place their life jackets and paddles in disinfectant where they will set for a few minutes before being hung to dry.
Cave Country has also added outdoor hand-washing stations on the grounds. “We’ve had to take a lot of steps; we’ll be taking temperatures and have bought masks, but it’s worth it,” said Nail. “Our staff needs to work; our community needs it. We’re going to keep going.”
Cave Country Canoes has introduced something new aimed at the local crowd this year. A $99 season pass will cover drop-off costs (usually $20 per trip) for those who own their own boat. Nail said more people are staying home due to coronavirus concerns.
“They need something to do,” she said.
Those wishing to canoe or kayak on the Blue River can enjoy a short or long day trip and have the option of an overnight experience as well. Cave Country offers primitive campsites that feature modern bathrooms and showers.
Because guests enter the river at staggered times and spread out on the water, it’s easy to maintain social distancing, said Nail. She noted buses will operate at half capacity this year.
For those looking for summer fun, Nail believes Cave Country offers a unique experience.
“It’s very relaxing, it’s exercise, you can enjoy solace with nature and fun with your family; there’s a million reasons,” she said.
Blue River, she added, “is one of the cleanest rivers in the state and one of the most rural. It’s beautiful. We really do have a treasure.”
Cave Country Canoes will host a Paddle Festival the first weekend in June. This is an opportunity for an extra trip, and guests can enjoy three days on Blue River if they choose. There will be bands each evening at the campground.