Secret Caverns – Howes Cave, New York - Atlas Obscura

Secret Caverns

Discovered by cows, these upstate New York show caves are presented with a healthy dose of psychedelic folk art. 


Mixing the free love fun of acid trip illustrations with the subterreanean spectacle of massive show caves, Cobleskill, New York’s Secret Caverns present a unique series of show caves through the lens of a tie die head shop. 

Located just near upstate New York’s OTHER show caves, the Howe Caverns, Secret Caverns were originally discovered in 1928 by a pair of curious cows. Named Lucky and Floyd respectively, the bovine duo took an assumedly fatal trip to the bottom of an 85-foot deep hole, alerting their owners of the caves’ existence. Once the local land owner got to the bottom of the hole, he discovered that it was in fact the first in a series of connected underground chambers which culminated in a chamber that featured a tall subterranean waterfall. Even though the descent into the caves initially required shimmying down almost 90-feet of rope before squeezing through the tight dirt tunnels to reach the waterfall, the caves were opened to the public in 1929 (much to the chagrin of the nearby Howe Caverns people).

As the caves gained notoriety down the decades, the site began to accrue colorful advertisements, murals, and pieces of art that gave the site the feel of a zany, Woodstock atmosphere. Ads for the caves began popping up for miles prior to the caves, displaying rainbow-colored characters enticing drivers to the caves. The origins of this particular aesthetic are unknown, but it was likely meant to definitively separate themselves from the Howe Caverns.

The caves are much improved now, with cement walkways and 103 rock stairs making the journey into and through the caves much easier. The highlights of this rustic cave include a 100-foot underground waterfall and the unique invitation to touch any and all rocks and formations. (Most caves cringe at the thought of such interactions.)

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