Lehman Caves at Great Basin National Park


Useful Information

photography
Shields, Lehman Caves, USA. Public Domain.
photography
Soda Straw with water drop, Lehman Caves, USA. Public Domain.
Location: 5500 NV-488, Baker, NV 89311.
8 km west of Baker, Nevada, near the Nevada/Utah border. Hwy 6 & 50 to Baker, 8 km on Highway 488 to the park.
(39.005609, -114.219734)
Open: Visitor Center: Mid-MAY to mid-OCT daily 8-16.
Mid-OCT to mid MAY daily 8-17.
Closed Thanksgiving, 25-DEC, 01-JAN.
[2023]
Fee: Great Basin National Park: free.
First Room Tour: Adults USD 5, Children (5-15) USD 2, Children (0-4) free.
Lodge Room Tour: Adults USD 12, Children (5-15) USD 6, Children (0-4) free.
Grand Palace Tour: Adults USD 15, Children (5-15) USD 8, Children (0-4) free.
Online booking strongly recommended.
[2023]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave. Limestone and low grade marble.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=400 m, T=10 °C, A=2,080 m.
Guided tours: First Room Tour: D=20 min, wheelchair accessible.
Lodge Room Tour: D=60 min, L=740 m.
Grand Palace Tour: D=90 min, L=870 m, minimum age 4.
Photography: allowed without tripod
Accessibility: Short tour: yes.
Others: no.
Bibliography: Al Hendricks (1987): Lehman Caves, Great Basin Natural History Association. 33 pp, numerous photos, almost one a page and many in colour, unusual size 23 x 20 cm SB.
Morgan Hill, Gretchen M. Baker (2021): Counting Cave Shields: A Lehman Caves Study, Poster. pdf
Address: Great Basin National Park, Hwy. 488, Baker, NV 89311, Tel: +1-775-234-7510. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1885 discovered by Absalom Lehman, a rancher and miner.
1909 included in the new National Forest.
24-JAN-1922 declared a National Monument by President Warren G. Harding.
10-JUN-1933 President Franklin Roosevelt transfers control of all national monuments, including Lehman Caves, to the National Park Service.
1936 construction of an artificial entrance tunnel started.
1939 entrance tunnel completed.
1941 electric light.
1960s exit tunnel constructed to create a one way tour.
1965 filming location of the movie The Wizard of Mars, which was later renamed Horrors of the Red Planet.
1986 Lehman Caves National Monument incorporated into the Great Basin National Park.

Description

photography
Air Bubble at Soda Straw, Lehman Caves, USA. Public Domain.
photography
Blocked Soda Straw with water escaping on the side, Lehman Caves, USA. Public Domain.

Lehman Caves were discovered by Absalom Lehman at an altitude of 2,133 m asl. This makes Lehman Caves one of the highest show caves in the United States. It extends into the limestone and low-grade marble that flanks the base of the Snake Range.

Lehman Caves is said to be one of the most richly decorated caves in the United States. It is famous for the rare speleothems called shields, that consist of two roughly circular halves, almost looking like flattened clam shells. Beneath an abundance of stalagmites, stalactites, draperies and flowstones there are extraordinary amounts of helictites. The speleothems are generally very white, which means the limestone is rather pure, with low amounts of iron or other colouring substances.

A circular tour takes the visitors through most of the large chambers in the cave, entering and leaving via man-made tunnels. There is only one trail, but three tours of different length, the shorter tours just omit a part of the full tour. The shortest tour visits only the Gothic Palace, the first room in the cave, and is wheelchair accessible. Nevertheless, the middle tour is held more frequent. as the short tour is intended only for those unable to negotiate the stairs and narrow passageways of the longer tours. The tour is rather funny because of low ceilings, but also a little strenuous. Visitors should wear warm clothes and good walking shoes.

The cave was discovered by Absalom Lehman, a rancher and miner, in 1885. President Warren G. Harding declared Lehman Caves a National Monument on 24-JAN-1922. Designated a State Recreation Ground and Game Refuge, it was administered by the U.S. Forest Service. Unfortunately they were not present at the site and made Clarence Rhodes, a former restaurant owner and chauffeur to Nevada's governor, and his wife Beatrice the official custodians of the caves. They operated the caves privately and were allowed to keep the guide fees. They improved the cave with stairways, replacing rope ladders, trails with viewing platforms, and carbide lamps instead of candles. The also improved the roads to the cave, developed one of the rooms of the cave as a meeting place for large groups and performed weddings in the cave. The Rhodes stopped the vandalism and protected the cave, but playing music on speleothems and all the development and heavy useof the cave was also a problem. They were followed by Elroy Cue and his wife around 1930, but in 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt transferred control of all national monuments, including Lehman Caves, to the National Park Service. And so T.W. Nielsen was appointed as the first Park Ranger in Charge in 1934. A decade of cleanup and repair projects followed. New Deal agencies such as the Works Progress Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Civil Work Administration were involved.

The natural entrance was a rather dangerous shaft, at the beginning rope ladders were used, later a staircase was built. In 1936 the construction of an artificial entrance tunnel was started and was completed in 1939. A similar exit tunnel was added in the 1960s. The electric light replaced the carbide lamps in 1941. But the first system was quite complicated and had numerous failures. In 1949, a new system with reliable generators was installed. In 1965, it was the filming location of the movie The Wizard of Mars, which was later renamed Horrors of the Red Planet. To handle increased visitor numbers after World War II, $500,000 was spent on improvements. This included the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, a new power plant, utility building, a new road, and a 25 unit picnic area.

While it was operated by the National Park Service, it was still a National Monument. In the Great Basin National Park Act of 1986, Lehman Caves National Monument was formally abolished, and incorporated into the Great Basin National Park.


Lehman Caves Gallery