Maribel New Hope Cave

Cherney Maribel Caves Park

Useful Information

Location: Cherney Maribel Caves Park, County Highway R, near Maribel.
Open: Park: All year daily 8-20.
Maribel New Hope Cave: MAY to OCT 3rd Sun 9-15.
Groups (10+): after appointment.
Fee: free, donations welcome. [2019]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SpeleologyRiver cave Niagara Dolomite Bedrock
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=200 m, VR=18 m, A=200 m a.s.l., T=8 °C.
Guided tours: L=166 m, VR=18 m, ST=2, D=25 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: accessible, only 2 steps
Address: Maribel New Hope Cave, Cherney Maribel Caves County Park, Manitowoc County, 3500 STH 310, Manitowoc, WI 54220, Tel: +1-920-683-4189. 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.


1892 Tartarus Cave discovered on the property of Judge Henry A. Alrich.
1892 Charles Steinbrecher purchases the property from Judge Aldrich because of "valuable mineral springs and several caves of unknown depth.”
1900 Charles Steinbrecher opens the Maribel Caves Hotel for tourists visiting the caves.
1905 small town of Maribel established, a railroad brings visitors to the area.
1931 property bought by Adolph Cherney
05-NOV-1963 property acquired by Manitowoc County for $16,200 and became first Manitowoc County park.
05-FEB-1984 Maribel New Hope Cave discovered by members of the Wisconsin Speleological Society.
31-OCT-1990 cavers break through into the first cave room and name it the Halloween Room.
AUG-2013 a tornado ripps through the park and destroys more than 75% of the trees, the picnic shelter, and the restrooms.


Maribel New Hope Cave was discovered in Winter 1984 by members of the Wisconsin Speleological Society (WSS). It was discovered because it was one of the coldest winter days in this year and steam was coming out of a pile of rocks. Because of the weather the cave air with its high humidity became visible. The cave entrance was closed by a huge pile of debris or talus from the cliff face of the 20 m high escarpment. Initial digs revealed a small opening about the size of a small apple where the steam had been coming out of. It was followed by a narrow crawl, but the cave actually was much bigger and almost completely filled in by glacial sediments. This discouraged many volunteers, and so the digging went on only on a low scale until 1990.

There were several hundred meters of cave waiting for excavation. This had been determined by using a geophysical method which measures the electric conductivity between poles in the ground. Rock is a rather bad conductor, water is better, but air is a good insulator. As a result there are now measurements which are interpreted as caves passages. This method is not very exact, and so there is much space for speculation, but the cavers working at the cave hope to find open passages. On 31-OCT-1990 the first breakthrough into the cave gave the entrance hall its name: Halloween Room.

Maribel New Hope Cave is is open for the public since 1990 although it was not really a show cave. Because of the ongoing excavation works it was equipped with paths and light, and members of the WSS were working on weekends at the cave. So visitors were guided through the cave and the work of the cavers explained. Of course the donations were also welcome to help finance the excavation work. The tours were more or less semi-wild, as the cave was still full of cave sediments, commonly known as dirt.

We listed this cave as a semi-wild cave offering cave trekking tours long ago, but since 2016 we have changed the status to a full show cave. The trails have now a decent length, are high enough and do not require stooping any more. The cave is cleaned and all in all not dirtier than any other show cave. And the helmet and headlamp provided by the guide seems to be mostly for the fun of children and adults, and not because they are really needed. However, the end of the excavations also means that the cave is not opened every weekend any more, just because the cavers are there for working anyway. The cave is now open one Sunday per month for regular tours.

The cave is closed during winter for bat protection, which seems a bit odd as there are almost no bats left. Like many other caves in the U.S.A. this cave was unfortunately infected by White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a bat disease which caused the growth of white fungus on the nose of the bats during hibernation. The fungus was actually not deadly for the bats, the problem was that it caused irritation and so the hibernation was interupted multiple times and at the end the bats starved before the spring because they were awake too often. The result is devastating: from some 70 bats in the cave before only around 7 are still alive.

This cave is located at the Cherney Maribel Caves County Park, which has numerous caves which can be visited: the Pancake Cave, Coopers Cave, the Tartarus Cave System, and Spring Cave. All those caves are open to visitors but only on special tours, except for the last which is only meant to be viewed from a county provided viewing deck which is on County property. The visits are cave trekking tours which require stooping and crawling, and obviously require caving gear like overall, helmet, headlamp and gum boots. However, the caves are not difficult and require no climbing skills.

The caves at Maribel have formed as river caves in the Niagara Dolomite, draining towards nearby West Twin River. They are very young and unfortunately dolomite is not as good for karstification as limestone. The result are numerous rather small caves, mostly created by flowing water with typical river cave profiles and erosional forms on the wall. The caves were formed during warmer periods between the last glacials (Ice Ages) when the ice was melting and the huge amounts of water resulted in rapid cave formation. During the next cold period the ice returned and brought sediments like sand, gravel and even huge rocks with it. This material was forced into the cave openings by the continuous movement of the ice and filled much of the caves, but at least most of the entrance sections. Thats the reason why so much digging is necessary to reconnect the different branches of the caves.