In Our Own Backyard
Should you Pause at One of These Funky Stops?
Photography: Craig Wolfrom
(page 3 of 5)
IDAHO'S MAMMOTH CAVE
In 1954, Richard Olsen, a senior in high school, and his girlfriend Veneda, were hunting bobcats in the area north of Shoshone when they came onto the entrance of the cave. that, and subsequent, forays below the earth, Olsen would find evidence that animals and Stone Age man used the cave for shelter and to preserve their meat in the cool underground temperatures. The bones of many different bears were found on the floor of the cave. Many broken bones of buffalo, camels, and small horses were found also.
In 1902, some early settlers stumbled onto the cave opening and left their names on a wall of the cave with the charcoal from their torches.
Olsen got the title to the cave under the Small Tract Act and raised mushrooms there. But it was too beautiful not to share, Olsen says on his website (http://idahosmammothcave.com/index.php).
Mammoth is one of several caves in the world that have a mysterious life form that grows on the walls, giving it the appearance of pure silver.
In the sixties, during the Cold War, the government approached Olsen and asked for the use of the cave for a civil defense shelter so people could escape from radiation if the United States were attacked.
The Mountain Home Air Base was a target because of the big B52’s loaded with hydrogen bombs that it always had ready to fly if we were attacked. Officials said they would gravel a good road to the cave if Olsen would let them put food and supplies in the cave for 8,000 people. They built a large platform and supplied food there for the next 20 years.
It is, at this time, the largest volcanic cave in the world open to the public. There is also the Shoshone Bird Museum of Natural History for those who prefer their infotainment above ground. >>>