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Cave near Auburn soon to reveal its secrets

Tours of Mountain Quarries Mine/Hawver Cave anticipated to start next summer
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Tourists could soon be joining woolly mammoths, Satanists, hard rock miners and teenage partiers on the list of visitors to the Mountain Quarries Mine/Hawver Cave near Auburn. While the Satanists and teen party crowd have been locked out, mammoths no longer walk the earth, and the miners have gone elsewhere in their search for limestone – the giant cave is being targeted for tours by the state Parks Department as early as next summer. A group of Auburn State Canyon Keepers volunteers are being trained as tour guides on an underground trek that will include stops at a 500-foot-long subterranean lake, an area known for devil worship, remnants of the cave’s mining past, and a look at a cave that once yielded pre-historic fossils. Gene Lorance, Hawver Cave project manager and consultant, said that after nearly a dozen years of shedding light on the cave through public presentations, people will finally have their curiosity sated for a glimpse of the cave’s cavernous interior. “It’s wonderful to have the opportunity for the public to view the geology and history,” Lorance said. “Instead of me making a presentation, they’ll be able to have a look for themselves.” Lorance said that a Website – hawvercave.org – will provide an opportunity for Hawver cavers to delve more deeply into the story behind its exploration in the early 20th century by Auburn dentist Dr. John Hawver and its later life as the Mountain Quarries Mine. “Hawver Lake is going to be a highlight,” Lorance said. “It’s a rare site.” During a training session for a group of so-called ‘Cave Keepers,’ Lorance and Parks Sector Superintendent Mike Lynch led about 20 people on a 1,400-foot route ending at Lake Hawver. The trek took in 13 points of interest along the way that will give visitors an overview of the cave. Among the stops was a “mud room” entrance where Hawver pulled out many of the fossils now at the University of California, Berkeley, a “Satan” room for devil worship once lit by hundreds of candles, remnants of mining operations and the lake – which has its own dock and boat. Lynch said plans are to create a gravel walkway that will be ADA compliant and open the cave’s 1,000-pound gates to allow tours as early as next July. “The plans are to add the cave tours to our repertoire of attractions and even have weddings and other special events here,” Lynch said. “It’s very safe because of the solid rock and we’re looking forward to sharing something that has a tremendous amount of pent-up interest.” The cave is located on the El Dorado County side of the Auburn State Recreation Area, about a mile east of Highway 49 on the Old Quarry Trail.