History of the Cave

The Story of a Wisconsin Landmark

  • Cave of the Mounds takes its name from the Blue Mounds, two large hills which have long been Wisconsin landmark features. The West Mound, at 1716 feet, is the highest point in Southern Wisconsin; the East Mound reaches 1489 feet. Cave of the Mounds lies under the southern slope of the East Mound.
  • This area was settled by Ebenezer Brigham, a successful lead miner who became Dane County's first permanent white settler in 1828. The West Mound is now a Wisconsin state park; part of the East Mound still belongs to the Brigham family. Brigham County Park lies along the wooded northern edge of this East Mound. Both parks afford magnificent vistas of southern Wisconsin.
  • Ebenezer Brigham traveled from Massachusetts down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi to join the Wisconsin lead rush in the late 1820's. He established his "diggings" and built a smelting furnace and a house just north of the Cave. His house became a trading post, an inn, a stagecoach stop, and Dane County's first post office. Colonel Brigham helped build and later commanded Fort Blue Mounds during the Blackhawk War in 1832. Ebenezer lived a long life on his Bringham Farm never realizing that a greater discovery than lead lay deep beneath its surface. Fun Fact: Over 59,000 people came to visit the Cave in the first 8 weeks of operation.
  • Cave of the Mounds was accidentally discovered on August 4, 1939. Workers, who were removing high quality limestone from a quarry on the Brigham Farm, blasted into the Cave. The blast tore the face off the quarry and revealed a great underground cavern. All quarrying stopped and never resumed. The dynamite blast revealed a limestone cave more than twenty feet high opening into other rooms and galleries, all containing numerous mineral formations.
  • The excitement of the discovery brought so many curiosity seekers that the Cave had to be closed in order to preserve it. Soon, lights and wooden walkways were installed. In May 1940, Cave of the Mounds was opened to visitors. Millions of visitors later, the Cave's wooden walkways were replaced with concrete; a large stone building replaced the original entry building; and theatrical lighting has been installed to dramatize the colors and shapes within the Cave. Picnic areas, walking trails, rock gardens, gift shops and a visitor center have all since been developed.
  • Millions of visitors later, the Cave's wooden walkways were replaced with concrete; a large stone building replaced the original entry building; and theatrical lighting has been installed to dramatize the colors and shapes within the Cave. Picnic areas, walking trails, rock gardens, gift shops and a visitor center have all since been developed. Come help us celebrate 75 years during our annual Discovery Days!
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