From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Howe Caverns

New York
42° 41' 47.2" N 74° 23' 56.1" W

  • History
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  • Gallery
  • Gallery
Howe Caverns is a cave in Howes Cave, New York. It is believed that the formation of the cave, which lies 156 feet below ground, began several million years ago. Composed mainly of limestone deposited hundreds of millions of years ago when the Atlantic Ocean stretched far inland, the cave contains a lake called the Lake of Venus, as well as many speleothems.

Howe Caverns takes its name from the farmer named Lester Howe who discovered it 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 he found a hole with a strong, cool breeze emanating from it. Howe proceeded to dig out and to explore the cave with his friend and neighbor, Henry Wetsel, whose land actually contained the cave entrance. Howe opened the cave to eight-hour public tours in 1843, and, as business grew, built a hotel over the entrance.

When Howe encountered financial difficulties, he sold off parts of his property until a limestone quarry bought the remainder. The quarry's purchase included the hillside which opened to the cave's natural entrance. The cave was then 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 1929. Since then it has become the second-most visited natural tourist attraction in New York state, after Niagara Falls. The site includes a hotel, restaurant, and more.