The first tours were lead through Howe Caverns back in 1843. As Matt Hunter reports, this week, a 1,200 foot section of the cave that had been off limits to the public for more than 100 years was finally re-opened.
HOWES CAVE, N.Y. – Becky Stark has been through Howe Caverns countless times.
"It was actually my first real job,” said Stark, who’s now tourism coordinator for Schoharie County. “As a teenager I was at tour guide here at Howe Caverns."
Despite her many trips through the cave's twists and narrows, Tuesday offered Stark a rare chance to explore entirely new depths.
"I'm so excited, I have been so excited all day," Stark said.
Stark and a small group of others were among the first to take the cave's new Signature Rock Discovery Tour, which brings visitors beyond the end point of the traditional tour into a section that's been off limits for more than a century.
"It was closed to begin with because the property had been previously owned by several cement companies that took over in the late 1800s," said Guy Schiavone, the cave’s specialty tour director.
"At the end of the boat ride there is a chain up that says ‘No entry beyond this point,’” said Howe Caverns General Manager Bill Gallop. “Everybody always asks what's behind there, what's behind the dam doors?'"
Anyone 14 and older willing to put on a pair of boots, helmet and waterproof suit can now get that answer for themselves.
"You are going to be walking through water, you are going to be walking over rocks, you are going to be crawling and some spaces, you are going to be walking hunched over,” said Schiavone, who designed the tour. “It is really exciting, it is a lot of fun and it is a little bit challenging too."
The two-and-a-half hour tour brings adventurous guests to the original entrance Lester Howe used to show off his discovery in the 1840s. Now, with so much new to see, visitors like Stark are re-discovering the historic cave all over again.
"This will bring people who have never been here before and to have been here before," Gallop said.
"It will be very exciting to see all of the people that have been here previously come back and see what else there is to do here," Stark said.
The Signature Rock Discovery Tour begins May 3. For more information, visit the official Howe Caverns website.