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Lantern tours available at Niagara Cave


Fri, Aug 15th, 2014
Posted in Harmony Features

Niagara Cave employee Matt Guttormson gives a Lantern Tour which owners Mark and Jenny Bishop have started to celebrate the cave’s 80th Anniversary. Photo by Barb Jeffers

Niagara Cave in Harmony, Minn. has begun offering lantern tours of the cave each Saturday evening through Labor Day to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the cave opening to the public for tours.

Mark Bishop, owner of Niagara Cave, stated, “The idea behind the lantern tours is to bring people back in time.” The cave was discovered as a farmer lost three pigs that had fallen into a sinkhole. While searching for the pigs the cave was discovered, explored, and eventually was opened for tours.

The lantern tours are offered every Saturday night through Labor Day weekend with tours taking place at 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Minimum age for the lantern tour is 7 years of age.

The cost for lantern tours is $16 per person, with each person getting their own lantern to carry. Reservations are not required but are recommended for lantern tours. Mini golf also stays open late on Saturday nights until 8 p.m. for visitor’s to enjoy the nice summer evenings.

There has been a great turnout for the lantern tours, stated Bishop, so much so that they are considering continuing the tours next year. The employees of Niagara Cave also enjoy the lantern tours as it is something new for them. It is a different experience going into the cave with a lantern versus having lights on throughout the tour as Bishop explains it is difficult to see ahead of you and behind you with only a lantern.

Mark and his wife Jenny purchased the cave in April 1995 from Ron Vikre of Harmony. Since buying Niagara Cave the Bishops have made many enhancements and updates. A new lighting system was installed throughout the cave, new staircases and decks were installed, and the building was totally remodeled inside and out.

A gemstone mining sluice was added, a concession stand was built, and an 18 hole mini golf course was designed and built which has been very popular among visitors looking to extend their time at Niagara Cave with family and friends.

The parking lots have been paved and a picnic shelter built near a playground in a quiet shaded area making it a perfect spot for a picnic before or after touring the cave. Recently Denny Rogne of Cresco, Iowa was enjoying the picnic area with his granddaughter Amari, 14 months, who was visiting from Dallas, Texas.

The gift shop at Niagara Cave has so much to offer it is difficult to list only a few things as examples. Souvenirs of all types include apparel, coffee cups and mugs, bells, and thimbles. Other items available are beautiful mineral and crystal specimens, jewelry, figurines, vases, and so much more. It is definitely worth looking around before or after taking a tour or playing mini-golf.

Niagara Cave has been rated one of the top 10 caves in the United States and includes a nearly 60 foot waterfall and a wedding chapel where over 400 weddings have been performed. Stalactites and stalagmites can be seen in different locations throughout the cave.

On the one hour guided tour you will encounter several species of fossils that lived millions of years before the dinosaurs, some being dated to over 400 million years, according to the website, niagaracave.com. Niagara Cave is a live developing cave. “Though it is continuously changing the growth of formations and the erosion of passages is extremely slow so that it is indiscernible in a human lifetime,” stated Bishop.

After touring the cave Bishop hopes that people will have a greater appreciation for nature and the power of time and water and added that the family enjoys providing an opportunity for people from all over the planet to experience a truly fascinating and beautiful piece of mother nature that is Niagara Cave.

Niagara Cave’s hours are Preseason: Weekends in April and daily in May - 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Regular Season: Memorial Weekend - Labor Day - daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Post Season: daily in September - 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Weekends in October and, and Off Season: by appointment only.

Group rates are available to organizations such as schools, scouts, churches, etc. with 15 or more admissions. Niagara Cave is a very exciting and informational learning experience for any group no matter what the age. Reservations are required for group tours. Reservations are not required for regular cave tours or smaller groups.

The cave is a constant 48 degrees so a light jacket or sweatshirt is recommended. Niagara Cave is not a bat habitat for those who may be a bit squeamish, so there are no worries there. Proper walking shoes are recommended and high heels or bare feet are not allowed in the cave for safety reasons. Photos are allowed during regular tours of Niagara Cave but not allowed during lantern tours.

In addition to Mark and Jenny and their two sons, Ryan and Aaron, Niagara Cave employs 15 - 20 guides giving area youth a job and helping to support the local economy.

For more information about Niagara Cave visit niagaracave.com or phone (800) 837-6606 or (507) 886-6606.

To view additional photos of Niagara Cave and its activities visit the Facebook page of the Fillmore County Journal.

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