Secret Caverns

Useful Information

Location: 671 Caverns Rd, Howes Cave, NY 12092.
About 56 km west of Albany, NY, between Rte 20 and Rte 7. 8 km east of Cobleskill, NY off Rte 7. I-88 Exit 22, Rte 7 E, 4 km, left on Caverns Rd.
(42.709128, -74.391334)
Open: Mid-APR to OCT Mon-Fri 11-15, Sat, Sun 10-16.
Fee: Adults USD 18, Children (6-12) USD 10, Children (0-5) free.
Cash only.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Speleologyriver cave. Coeymans Limestone (Lower Devonian) and Manlius Limestone (Upper Silurian)
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=10 °C.
Guided tours: D=45 min, L=800 m, St=103.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no, staircase with 103 stairs
Address: Secret Cavern, 671 Caverns Rd, Howes Cave, NY 12092, Tel: +1-518-296-8558. E-mail:
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.


1928 exploration.
1929 opened to the public by Roger H. Mallery.
1930s developed, 103 cement steps, electric light, and a concrete walkway.


Secret Caverns, like many New York state caves, has huge domes connected by windings passages and a cave river. And like most caves in the area, it was formed during the Ice Ages, the cave stream contains gravel which shows evidence of glacial action. During the cold periods the northern part of America was covered by enormous glaciers. The melting water of those huge masses of ice created many caves, by its enormous erosional forces. This cave was formed approximately during the last 300,000 years. But it got it current shape with the end of the last cold age 38,000-14,000 years ago.

The cave was opened to the public in 1929 by Roger H. Mallery, who intended to keep the cave as natural as possible. At first the visitors had to descend 25 m on rope and then crawl through 60 m of narrow passage to reach the larger inner chambers. Today we would call this cave trekking tours, and it would be a great success. At this time it was too strenuous for most visitors, so soon he decided to do further development. He installed a wooden walkway, metal ladders, and electric light. A few years later he replaced the wooden walkway by a concrete one and the ladders by concrete steps. The staircase with 103 stairs is called petrified escalator by the guides.

The upper layers of Coeymans Limestone, where the cave is located in, are very rich in fossils. The crinoids, spiral coral, and brachiopods can be seen in the cave walls during the first descent into the cave. Other fossils like nautiloids, sea scorpions, and trilobites can be found in the surrounding area or purchased in the gift shop.

But the main attraction of the cavern is a roaring subterranean waterfall of 33 m height. There is a kind of urban legend, that the water is pumped from a pond on the surface artificially. The owners on the other hand assure that it is not pumped artificially in any way. A caver from the area told us the following story, which he purported happened in the 1960s.

Local caver lore says, some cavers put fluoresceine in a nearby pond, then joined the next tour. When the guide turned on the lights as the tour entered that section of cave, the pump started up, and the water began falling (before the tour got there to witness it, of course). When they reached the waterfall, the guide was in the middle of his spell about it being the tallest waterfall in the state when it suddenly turned bright green. The guide was dumbfounded, the cavers in stitches, and the rest of the tourists just confused.

However, the owners seem not to like those stories very much. They guess they were spread by their competitors up the road, together with other rumors, like the one the cave was blasted out artificially. We can not tell if there is a sort of cave war going on, but we guess such stories are a very good and cheap publicity.