Hidden beneath the rolling hills of the New York Capital District are the Howe Caverns. In these limestone caves, "solid rock appears fluid: creating strange formations, flowing sheets, and dripping stalactites" that feed the underground River Styx as it flows "downward to the glassy surface of an underground lake that trails off into the absolute darkness." The hellish depths are open to visitors.
The tour begins with a 156-foot plunge into the Earth.
When elevator doors open, you'll find yourself in a damp, alien environment where the air remains at a cool 11 C with 70-75% humidity.
"As your eyes adjust to the underworld," your ears will have to adapt to the echoing chamber as they whisper tales from hidden cracks and rooms.
A guide will take you through "the enormous main cavern" and "immense galleries," passing "under huge boulders which hang precariously overhead."
"Your journey will wind through limestone corridors, cavernous galleries, under massive boulders, until you discover a subterranean riverbed carved over countless millennia."
A boat ride takes guests down the mysterious dark stream.
Along the way, you'll get a peek into "grottos [leading] off into distant, unexplored passages" with "secrets" hidden in their "deep cracks and crevices."
The most daring adventurers can reserve a spot on the even more intense "Adventure Tour."
Participants are dressed in coveralls, gloves, boots, and knee pads with only a lighted helmet to illuminate the path before them.
"Your guide will take you through the Mystery Passage, across the dry underground stream bed and up to the Great Rotunda," a "107-foot high, silo-shaped natural dome" reachable by the public "for the first time in more than 125 years."
The "Traditional" 90-minute walking tour and boat ride cost US$25 per person. No reservations are required.
The two-hour adventure tour will set each participant back US$125.
For US$45 on Friday and Saturday, you can also embark on the two-hour "Lantern Tour," for which you'll grab a flashlight and join other fearless scouts for a nighttime exploration of the caves.
Get all the details below.
Where: 255 Discovery Drive, Howes Cave, NY
When: Opening hours; check the caverns website and social media pages for updates
Traditional Tour: US$25/person
Lantern Tour: US$45/person
Adventure Tour: US$125/person
Why You Have To Go: For a boat ride down an underground river
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