Cooper's Cave

Useful Information

Location: South Glens Falls, at the Hudson River.
Open: Viewing platform: spring to OCT daily 8-dusk. [2006]
Fee: free [2006]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: n/a
Guided tours: n/a
Bibliography: James Fenimore Cooper (1826): The Last of the Mohicans, a Narrative of 1757, Philadelphia, 1826.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1961 cave closed by the destruction of the spiral staircase.
MAY-2006 reopening as a National Historic Landmark.


Cooper's Cave was named after James Fenimore Cooper, who made it world famous. In his novel Last of the Mohicans, he tells about the Munro sisters, who are on the run from murderous Hurons. They find shelter in a cave for a night, which is located on a small limestone island in the Hudson River. Obviously the story is fictional, but the description of the cave is based on a real location. Cooper travelled in the area and visited Glens Falls. He was accompanied by the future Lord Derby, who told him that this was the very scene for a romance. So Cooper got the idea to use the location at the river in his book. For more than a century this place became a visiting place for European and American travelers.

Glens Falls are rapids in the Hudson River. Several limestone rocks form islands in the rapids, the biggest one contains a small through cave with an impressive elliptic shape. Most of the time the cave is dry, but at high water levels water flows through the cave. Once the Hudson was crossed on a furt below, but in the 18th century a wooden bridge was built. The bridge integrated the island, thus two short bridges were built instead of a big one. This also allowed easy access to the cave. At the time Cooper visited the cave, the bridge already existed.

Later the rapids were covered by a dam, to generate electricity. A new bridge, built after the great flood in 1913 which damaged the old bridge, crossed the Hudson high above the island. Access to the island with the cave was provided by a spiral staircase going down from the sidewalk of the bridge. This staircase was removed in 1961, and since then the cave was not acessible any more.

In an attempt to reopen the site to the public, a short walkway and a viewing platform were built from synthetic logs. The new access is from the end of River Road, not from the bridge above. Signs guide visitors to the place and explain the history. However, the cave is still not accessible, but the platform allows a good view into the cave. At the moment there is only the question of parking space still open.