Lester Howe


New York State's Second Most Visited Natural Attraction!

Discovery By Humans

Howe Caverns, which was discovered 20 years before the outbreak of the Civil War, has a history that follows America’s transformation from a farm-based economy to an industrial nation. It was a time when great fortunes were made by leaders of the Industrial Revolution and a time when man was eager to exert his command over nature.

Prior to the arrival of the German Palatine Settlers in the Schoharie Valley in the early 1700s, the local Native Americans knew what they called “Otsgaragee” or “Cave of the Great Galleries.” In historical records, there is some disagreement as to this translation, which suggests the Native Americans explored deep into the cavern. A second translation is “Great Valley Cave,” which may be more accurate, as many believe the Native Americans’ superstitions may have kept them from exploring the cave.

The first white man to enter the cave did so in the early 1770s. Perhaps Johnathan Schmul, a peddler, had been calling on families in the mill town of Kobel’s Kill (today, Cobleskill) when he sought refuge from a Native American attack by hiding at the entrance to the cave. Schmul later confided in a local pastor, Rev. John Peter Resig, “I found a cave when the Indians were after me. That’s my home. But be mum about this. Should war break out, then flee to this cave and you will be safe.” Schmul and Resig vanished quite suddenly from the historical records, as did the Native Americans of the Schoharie Valley, who fled the area with their Tory counterparts at the end of the American Revolution.

*Please note: historical excerpts taken from The Remarkable Howe Caverns Story by Dana Cudmore, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, NY, Copyright 1990.

Little was known or remembered of Otsgaragee by the early 1800’s when Lester Howe, his wife Lucinda, and their three infant children – Huldah Ann, Harriet Elgiva and Halsey John – settled in the valley east of Cobleskill. The location of the cave entrance had been lost to history, but there was talk of a mysterious “Blowing Rock” – a strange rocky ledge from which a cool breeze of air emanated on even the hottest days.

Howe and his family farm were located adjacent to the caverns’ hidden entrance (the farmhouse foundation stood on Dug Road, just east of Boreali’s Restaurant until I-88 was built). There is no doubt Howe was fascinated by stories of the strange local phenomenon “Blowing Rock.” Reports of the day placed its location just north of the “Kobles Kill” and ten miles west of the Schoharie River – on or near his property.

There are several different accounts of the caverns’ history, but the most often told (shortened for the touring public) is that Howe found the cave by accident on the 22nd of May, 1842. On many hot summer days he noticed his cows pastured in this same spot, not on his land, but land owned by neighbor and friend, Henry Wetsel. When Howe approached his herd, he began to notice the temperature getting cooler. His dairy herd had gathered near the cave’s hidden entrance to feel the cool air coming from below, and Howe had indeed found the mysterious “Blowing Rock” and gave credit, in particular, to a cow named “Millicent” for helping with the discovery. Howe then entered the cave with his neighbor Henry Wetsel.

*Please note: historical excerpts taken from The Remarkable Howe Caverns Story by Dana Cudmore, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, NY, Copyright 1990.

Traditional Cave Tours

Whether you live in New York, want to take a day trip, or are looking for a fun affordable overnight stay, Howe Caverns is one of the most exciting NYS natural attractions. On your journey you will wind through limestone corridors, pass through cavernous galleries, walk under massive boulders, and take a serene boat ride on a subterranean riverbed carved over countless millennia. The cave is 52°F (11°C) so a jacket or sweatshirt and closed-toed comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Flip flops are NOT permitted in the cave. The cave tour consists of a 1.25 mile walk with a 0.25 mile boat ride. There are 139 stairs throughout the tour.

Get ready to experience the most immersive escape rooms in the Capital Region. 

“The Cave” is the first of three high-tech escape rooms to open at Howe Caverns.
Do you think YOU know HOWE TO ESCAPE!?

The Ultra-Max penitentiary known as “The Cave” houses the most notorious criminal geniuses in the country. Built 15 stories underground, The Cave has the latest in cutting-edge escape deterrent technology deployed in the facility. Many infamous individuals have spent the waning years of their lives behind its triple-reinforced cell walls and state-of-the-art security systems. This distinguished clientele has resulted in multiple escape attempts, but none have been successful… until now! A motley crew of the criminal elite, led by maniacal mastermind, Stu “The Flu” Galopso, have done the impossible and breached the confines of their containment sector. Society’s most dangerous and unpredictable fugitives are now at large, and only YOU can stop them!

Escape Room By Reservation Only

All ticket sales are nonrefundable, non-transferable, and may not be exchanged.