Wisconsin May 16, 2018
Few People Know There Are 7 Different Caves To Explore At This One Wisconsin Park
quite a few different caves you can explore all around Wisconsin, but the Maribel Caves might be the most unique. We only know about them because a glacier that moved through the area many thousands of years ago scraped away the earth that was above them, revealing the hard rock below. They’re also not super accessible, making them a lot less touristy than other spots. Just once a month from May through October, on the third Sunday of the month, you can enter these caves with a volunteer tour guide to see some amazing parts of the state few people get to see.
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This county park is 75 acres and located right along the West Twin River. There is a rugged cliff line that follows the path of the river that serves as a demarcation between the rolling park hills and the craggy cave system.
their website, "Cherney Maribel Caves County Park offers many caves and crevices that are open and accessible by a series of trails to the public when the park is officially open like Coopers Cave, Staircase Cave, Pancake Cave, Tunnel Passage, and Spring Cave by viewing deck only. The park also has some caves that are gated open only for set tours during certain times of the year."
This park and cave system are unique in that a lot of other spots in the state were formed by glacial silt and sediment. But here, the slow-moving glacier just served to unearth this Niagara Dolomite that lay beneath the surface. Coopers Cave, Staircase Cave, Pancake Cave, Tunnel Passage, and Spring Cave can be viewed when the park is open, but it is a surface viewing. The caves tend to sit along the escarpment line and some of the entrances are difficult to find. The history of these caves is almost unknown, making them especially fascinating to volunteers.
Though some of the pockets and holes here may have been naturally occurring, it's likely that these caves formed through years of decomposing and exposure to the elements. "Springs, carbonic acid, the changing seasons, high volumes of glacial ice melt, and temperature variations broke down the rock. Small caves and openings created by these forces appear in the rock layers of the cliff line."
New Hope Cave is unique in many ways, but especially because it is a relatively new find. People noticed steam coming out of it in 1984 and it took years for volunteers to move the rocks at the entrance and decide the right way for accessing the cave. Concerned with the integrity of the cave and preserving it, it wasn't until 2004 that the way the cave was accessed was changed.
What remains is a truly massive cave system. Though you can see and start to explore some of it on your own, the best way to get into this cave system is to take one of the very limited but incredibly awesome tours volunteers do once a month in the summer months. It requires a lot of pre-planning, but is so worth it. Maribel New Hope Cave is open to the public for tours by appointment and on weekends when volunteers are in the park working. The cave gate is locked during other times to protect cave formations and bats who call the cave home.
This summer on May 20, June 17, July 15, August 19, September 16 and October 21, you can sign up for a public tour to explore the otherwise inaccessible Maribel New Hope Cave and the Tartarus Cave System. There is a committed group of volunteers and spelunking enthusiasts who work to keep this park prepared for visitors and they lead amazing tours. The Wisconsin Speleological Society is committed to doing wonderful things here and they are always looking for more help and volunteers.
There's a contact area on the cave website where you can get more information about the limited cave tours. They take place from 10 am to 3 pm and you should know you'll probably get a bit dirty, Bring a flashlight and wear old shoes and prepare to see a bit of our state that only a limited amount of people get to experience every year.
This park contains two very different areas, but that is what makes it a perfect place for you to explore. The upland wooded area has facilities for picnicking and hiking. A staircase and trail system has been constructed for greater accessibility to the scenic lowland area. Plan to hike, explore and fall in love with this incredibly unique spot.
You will not regret scheduling out one of these rare Sundays these caves are all open. The Niagara Escarpment is a truly fascinating part of our state's geology and these caves give you a unique look at it. Getting to explore areas that aren't tromped upon by tourists day in and day out is really a privilege and pretty darn cool.
The Niagara Escarpment is a huge land formation that, yes, is what the Niagara Falls falls off of – and it originates right here in Wisconsin.
Read more about this fascinating geological oddity here.