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Highlighting one of Minnesota’s Darkest Hidden Gems

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HARMONY, Minn. (WXOW) - Discovered in the 1930's, the Niagara Cave attracts over 30,000 visitors each year.

From above the surface, it might just look like flyover country, but it's what lies beneath the surface that has thousands flocking to this small town in Southeast Minnesota.

This adventure begins with a descent down 275 steps, deep into what Owner Mark Bishop describes as another dimension.

"It's just an otherworldly experience," said Bishop. "It's a very easy way to get underground and see what mother nature has created ."

From traditional cave columns of calcium deposits, known as stalagmites and stalactites, to one of Minnesota's tallest water falls, the Niagara Cave awes new visitors and geologists alike.

"I've been down there thousands of times but there's still times where we come across something that we haven't seen before," said Bishop.

Even 200 feet below the surface, the cave stays a regulated 48 degrees year-round said Manager of Niagara Cave Aaron Bishop.

"Here is Southeastern Minnesota the average air temperature is 48 degrees, so that means the ground temperature is 48 degrees and that also means the water temperature is typically 48 degrees," said Bishop. "So it is the average air temperature, which determines the ground temperature, which is what determines the water temperature in the cave."

The cave was only discovered less than 100 years ago, but its rocky foundation stands the test of time.

"This limestone is about 450 million years old," said Bishop. "The fact that we are walking through a slice through time, you can see various fossils at different depths tells a really great story of the geologic paths of the area."

While many might associate caves with bats, you won't find any here. Matter of fact, it's very rare to see any life in the dark depths of the cave.

"There is cave life in there but most of it in there is really small, almost microscopic," said Bishop.

What the cave doesn't lack, is fossils.

"The fossils in the cave are not only numerous but there's a variety of them, and each fossil has it's own story," said Bishop.

A story that's pages continue to turn right here in our own backyard.

"This area is prone to that kind of geology and just happens to be one of the most fantastic discoveries in this area," said Bishop.

The cave had to remain closed in 2020 due to COVID-19, but they are very excited to be able to open back up this year. Right now, they are doing reservations for weekends only, but they hope as more people get vaccinated they can open back up 7 days a week. For more information on signing up for the cave tour, click here.

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Warren Sears

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