Spelunking in Idaho
There are many places in Idaho that would be great to explore. The history of Idaho is full of exploration from Lewis and Clark to early pioneers. Though Idaho is now full of cities and towns, there are still many ways to continue the tradition of exploration. One of the most interesting things ways to explore is to learn about and travel through some of the many caves in Idaho. There’s really nothing like a day of Spelunking through Idaho.
Located near Idaho Falls, Minnetonka Cave is a great place to find adventure and explore underground. As a major tourist attraction, over 20,000 people visit the cave and take guided tours from mid- June to Labor Day. In this time, It is open every day from 10-5:30 and runs a tour every half hour.
With a half a mile through stalactites and stalagmites with other cool formations, there is nothing like taking a tour of the Minnetonka Cave. It is a fun activity to go by yourself or take a group of people. If you take more than 30 people, you get 10% off the price of 8$ for 16 and up and 6% for 6-15. There is water and restrooms available.
The tour through the cave goes through nine separate chambers and the largest room, called the ballroom, is 90 feet high. If you visit the cave, make sure that you dress warm as it is normally cold enough for you to see your breath. The average temperature inside of the cave is 40 degrees.
Minnetonka cave was discovered in 1907 by a hunter who was looking for grouse near the Oregon Trail. 40 years later, it became open to the public and continues to be explored today.
The reason that Minnetonka Cave is so popular is the impressive limestone formations in the cave. Over a million years old, the cave has been able to build up the largest limestone rock cave in the State of Idaho. Another impressive element is the vast size of the entrance to the cave- which is more than 7,700 feet high.
Niter Ice Cave
Can you imagine a place that can be used as a place to explore, a refrigerator, a place to hide from Native Americans, a dance hall, an ice cream maker and a picnic gathering? Well, it’s hard to imagine but near Grace, Idaho, Niter Ice Cave used to be such a place. The early pioneers used this cave for almost everything.
In fact, there is a famous story about the cave being used for protections against the many dangers that the pioneers faced on the frontier. John A. Dalton, one of the original homesteaders in Idaho, and his family used it as a cave for refuge from unfriendly Native Americans. Since that time, the cave has been a favorite picnic spot for many years. Unfortunately, because of its popularity, there is graffiti in the caves that can be seen with a bright light.
In addition to its history as a refuge, the cave has an interesting geological history as well. From the Pleistocene era, the lava tube was formed by a basalt lava flow about a half a million years ago, which is old for a lava tube because they normally collapse after about 10,000 years. This cave is the oldest of its kind in Idaho, the United States, and perhaps even the world.
The cave is considered an ice cave because the average temperature reaches 30 degrees. Even in the summer, there is ice inside the cave.
On the ceiling of the cave, there are Sistine crystals that sparkle across the top of the cave when you shine a light off on them. Another interesting feature of the rocks is the cave walls are native lava rock in a variety of colors- especially red. These beautiful colors are another reason why Niter Cave is a great place to explore.
Idaho’s Mammoth Cave
Millions of years ago, there was an eruption from underground that filled the valley north of what is now Shoshone, Idaho, with 600 feet deep with lava. One of the rivers flowed underground and created a hollow tube underground that is full of stories throughout time.
The earliest story of the cave is that of early settlers in 1902. They stumbled across the cave and used charcoal from their torches in order to leave their names on the walls and record their adventure exploring the cave.
52 years later, a high school-er, Richard Olsen, and his girlfriend discovered the cave when they were hunting together. Touched with a sense of curiosity and adventure, Richard wandered into the cave with a flashlight and explored the whole cave, expecting to find a hidden treasure. Though he didn't find a chest full of gold, Richard paid for the title to the cave years later because of the excitement he found in the cave. At first he used the cave to raise mushrooms, but then he opened up the cave for giving tours to the public and share the adventure of exploring the cave with others.
During the Cold War, because of the structure of the cave, the government asked Richard to use the cave for a civil defense shelter to protect people from radiation if the U.S. was attacked.
Richard made a deal with the government that they would make a road to the cave if he would allow them to store food and supplies in the cave for 8000 people. They built a platform for the supplies that would be there for 20 years.
Today, Idaho’s Mammoth Caves is the largest volcanic cave in the world that is open to the public. In addition to its rare size, Idaho’s Mammoth Caves contains a rare mineral deposit on the walls that create color as well as a life form that lives on the wall that makes the wall look like it is covered in silver.
This huge and beautiful cave attracts hundreds of people from all over the world. If you are 17 and over, the cost is 10$, 16 and under the cost is 5$ and 6 and under is free. The cave has a good trail and is lighted. The total distance traveled would be about a half a mile.
If you want to have a tour of this magnificent cave, go online and make a reservation for a tour. Come visit Idaho and see this cave that is full of history and mystery.
No matter which cave you choose to visit, find the time to explore Idaho and the many adventures that can be found in Spelunking.