Howe Caverns

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Outside view of the caverns.

The Howe Caverns is a cave in Howes Cave, Schoharie County, New York. Howe Caverns is a popular tourist attraction, providing cave-goers with a sense of caving or spelunking, without needing the advanced equipment and training usually associated with such adventures.

Howe Caverns is the second most visited natural attraction in New York State, after Niagara Falls.


Geologists believe the formation of the cave, which lies 156 feet (48 m) below ground, began several million years ago. Composed mainly of two types of limestone (Coeymans and Manlius) from different periods in the Earth's early history, deposited hundreds of millions of years ago when the Atlantic Ocean stretched far inland,[1] the cave contains a lake, called the Lake of Venus, as well as many speleothems.

Discovery and development[edit]

Inside the caverns
External audio
Howe Caverns 3.JPG
“Episode 171: Underground Worlds”, Science History Institute

The Howe Caverns is named after farmer Lester Howe, who discovered the cave on May 22, 1842. Noticing that his cows frequently gathered near some bushes at the bottom of a hill on hot summer days, Howe decided to investigate. Behind the bushes, Howe found a strong, cool breeze emanating from a hole in the Earth. Howe proceeded to dig out and explore the cave with his friend and neighbor, Henry Wetsel, on whose land the cave entrance was located. Even to this day, the cave is at a constant temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit, irrespective of the outside weather.[2]

Howe opened the cave to eight-hour public tours in 1843, and, as business grew, a hotel was built over the entrance. When Howe encountered financial difficulties, he sold off parts of his property until a limestone quarry purchased the remainder. The quarry's purchase included the hillside, which opened to the cave's natural entrance. Eventually, the cave was closed to the public, until an organization was formed in 1927 to reopen it. The organization spent the next two years undertaking development work to create another route into the cave. After completion of the work – including elevators, brick walkways, lighting, and handrails – the cave was reopened to visitors on Memorial Day, May 1929.[3]

The tour lasts about 80 minutes and shows the majority of the cave. Visitors begin at the elevators and continue to the end of Lake of Venus, which marks the end of the property. Beyond this point lie about 2,100 feet (640 m) of unconditioned and destroyed caverns, which lead to the quarry and the natural entrance. After a boat ride, visitors turn around and walk back the way they came, with two additional stops.

In 2008, the cave was purchased by private owners. In 2011, the adventure park was assembled only featuring the ropes course and zip line. In recent years, an H2OGO ball has been added, along with a rock wall, air jumper, and a gemstone mining building. On July 8, 2015, one of the H2OGO water attractions was stolen. Howe Caverns offered a reward to anyone providing information that may lead to an arrest of the thief or thieves.[4][5]

In May 2015, Howe Cavern officials opened up the natural entrance of the cave to public tours. The new section of the cavern had not been seen since 1900.[6] "It was closed to begin with because the property had been previously owned by several cement companies that took over in the late 1800s," said Guy Schiavone, Howe Cavern's Specialty Tour Director."[7]

The two-hour "Signature Rock Discovery Tour" simulates natural cave exploration with the assistance of a guide, in a section of the cave that had not previously been open to the public. There is no artificial lighting in this part of the cavern. Visitors are equipped with a suit appropriate for the muddy and cold journey. The expanded tour includes the remains of Howe's original tourist boat, signatures along the rock left by cavern adventurers more than 100 years ago,[6][8] and a “Music Hall” where sound echoes exceptionally well. The tour usually ended at the "Lake of Mystery", as visitors would have to crawl through a passage filled with water inches away from the ceiling. The store at Howe Caverns sells 'cave aged' cheese that is stored in a locked room by the elevators.

Weddings are performed deep in the cave, on top of a Calcite formation that resembles a heart shape.[9]

Cave House Museum of Mining & Geology[edit]

The Cave House Museum of Mining & Geology is located next to the caverns in a former hotel. The museum features exhibits relating to the cave's geology and formation, rock and mineral specimens, the history of the cave's discovery and tourism, wildlife found in the cave, and the area's cement industry.[citation needed]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°41′46″N 74°23′55″W / 42.69611°N 74.39861°W / 42.69611; -74.39861