Bower Cave, perhaps most accurately described as a grotto, has been well-known to Indigenous Peoples for hundreds of years. People of the Me-Wuk culture called it "Oo-tin" or Home of the Evening Star. Just who among the early miners and settlers saw it first is a matter of dispute. One of the first known to have written about it was Belgian miner Jean-Nicolas Perlot, who lived in the vicinity in 1852-1857.
Miners Nicholas Arni and Frederick Schoebel were the first to lay claim to the land around the grotto and the first to promote it as a tourist attraction. Visitation to the cave grew steadily with the area's growth due initially to mining. In 1874, a tollroad from Coulterville to Yosemite was completed. Bower Cave was directly along this route, providing cool respite for stageline travelers on hot summer days and becoming a favorite spot for picnics and Saturday night dances.
Originally, people were lowered into the grotto in a bathtub-size bucket and windlass. A long, steep wooden staircase was later constructed to the grotto bottom where a dance floor was also built. The attraction led to construction of an eight-room hotel in 1874. Guests and locals continued to use the grotto as a dance and party place into the 20th century. After changing owners several times, Bower Cave was closed in the mid-fifties when an individual was killed in a fall after part of the rotting staircase gave way.
In 1991, the US Forest Service acquired Bower Cave and the nearby Linkletter Ranch, as a part of a land exchange.
At a Glance
|Current Conditions:||Groveland Ranger District (HWY 120)- Bower Cave is closed. Entering the cave is prohibited.|
|Operational Hours:||Bower Cave is closed.|
|Restrictions:||Entering the cave is prohibited. No overnight camping.|
|Closest Towns:||Greeley Hill, CA