#LaPresse: “Descent into the New York Underground | David Riendeau “
"Attention to the head," Jim warns us, just in time to avoid the collision with a protrusion in the rock. With the ease of a Venetian gondolier, our guide pushes the boat with a long pole while our group is absorbed by the phantasmagoric contours of this lake, located 45 meters under the State of New York
Of the 17,000 caves in the United States, only a hundred are open to the general public. Two of them are located here in the small community of Cobleskill, an hour's drive from Albany. For 6 million years, water has dug the thick limestone layer beneath its green hills, creating the largest underground in the northeast of the country: the Howe Caverns.
Once reached the reception pavilion, visible from the motorway, curious people of all ages pile up in the elevator which will lead them underground. To the emotion of making this unusual descent is added the interest of visiting an attraction whose opening dates back to the infancy of the tourist industry.
The Howe Caverns received their first visitors in 1843, at a time when the public was fond of such natural wonders. A few years earlier, the opening of the Mammoth Caverns in Kentucky – the largest underground network in the world – had marked the spirits. An oil lamp in his hand, owner Lester Howe himself guided the expeditions that could last eight hours! In the evening, one of her daughters played the piano in the living room of the newly built hotel to accommodate the increasing number of tourists since the inauguration of a railway station nearby.
The popularity of the Howe Caverns is so important that they quickly became New York's most popular attraction after Niagara Falls. A position they still hold, specifies their promotional brochure.
Of the 17,000 caverns that the United States would count, only a hundred are open to the general public.
Picture David Riendeau, special collaboration
Beauty and Mystery
The doors of the elevator open before us, unveiling a universe full of beauty and mystery. Our walk, then gondola, takes us through a succession of narrow passages, domes with monumental dimensions and rooms adorned with sculptures shaped by erosion. According to his fancy, the water carved forms evoking sometimes the organ of a church, sometimes the threatening head of a dinosaur.
Some aspects of the visit raise an eyebrow: the entrance fee – US $ 25 for an adult – is a little high, groups are numerous and our guide invites us twice rather than one to go to the souvenir shop. Despite these few flaws, it would be useless to sulk his pleasure. This long tunnel dug in the limestone always arouses the fascination of visitors, 175 years after its discovery.
Five minutes away, another "museum cavern" takes you down to the depths of New York. Discovered at the end of the 20s, the Secret Caverns are accessible by a long stone staircase. They are narrower than their neighbors, but their exploration is nonetheless palpitating. At the bottom of the underground is a waterfall of about thirty meters whose roar is similar to that of thunder!