A brief history...for more, plan a tour!
About the Caves
Cherney Maribel Caves County Park is an especially significant geological area that was formed primarily by glacial activity. Through many years of deposition and change, glaciers wore down the land surface exposing an underlying solid mass of rock called Niagara Dolomite. This has formed the naked crags and irregular cliff line of the area. These formations are in contrast to other parts of Wisconsin where rich layers of boulder till were deposited by the glaciers.
Over the years of extreme climatic conditions, the rock has decomposed. Springs, carbonic acid, the changing seasons, high volumes of glacial ice melt, and temperature variations broke down the rock. Small caves and openings created by these forces appear in the rock layers of the cliff line. Springs which seep from the limestone rock flow over moss covered rocks and trickle to the river. Select wildlife to the area, rare ferns, varieties of creeping plants, and wildflowers are found among the rocks and within the wooded growth. This natural beauty of the park made it a popular picnic and recreational area long before it was acquired by Manitowoc County
on Nov 5, 1963.
Local volunteer groups including the Wisconsin Speleological Society have been working in conjunction with Manitowoc County Parks and Planning Commission to systematically excavate the glacially deposited sediments in the passages in order to restore the natural beauty of one of those caves... aptly named "New Hope".
New Hope Cave
Maribel New Hope Cave was discovered on one of the coldest winter days in 1984 on February 5th. Steam was coming out of a pile of rocks that covered the entrance area. The rock is called Talus. Talus is simply breakdown pieces of the cliff face as it weathers and breaks apart. Today if you look above the entrance of Maribel New Hope Cave at the moss on the cliff face, you can see how high the Talus pile was across the opening. The moss is above where the rock pile used to be.
Shortly after the steam was found coming out of the rock pile, a preliminary probe of the area from removing rocks out of the way revealed a small opening about the size of a small apple in the cliff face that the steam had been coming out of. Excavation continued the next Spring and a small passage was revealed. However, rocks in the passage discouraged some of the original WSS members attempts to push the passage further so the excavation was abandoned for other easier dig areas in the park. Years passed and other WSS members came on the scene and figured out how to get the fallen rocks out of the way. They dug some more until they hit another rock that stopped their progress. More years passed and other WSS members figured out how to remove the next rock. It was not until 6 years later on October 31st of 1990 that cavers broke through into the first official cave room that is now known as the Halloween Room. The passage from the entrance to this first room was only about a two foot high belly crawl the whole way of about 20 feet.
In 2004, new cavers came on board and pointed out how destructive these ceiling crawls were to the cave. Formations near the ceiling were getting broken off and the ceilings which used to be pristine white were getting dirtied up from mud on people’s caving clothes. New ideas bring new solutions. Like almost starting over at square one, the entrance passage was lowered, a track system was obtained and placed in the entrance passage, and then pail by pail the Halloween Room was emptied out from ceiling to floor. It is much easier removing debris standing up than on your stomach. With a roller track system in place, we began removing 250 to 300 pails in a day. Just this year 2012, we have increased our productivity and pail counts by utilizing wheelbarrows now instead of passing pails. We can now push a wheelbarrow from the dig front all the way through the entrance to the outside of the cave
This cave is open to the public only during special tour hours.
Maribel’s Spring Cave is one of the original documented caves in the 75 acre park. Spring Cave was the most used and documented of the original four caves documented in Manitowoc County History. Spring Cave is just that, it is a cave with a year - around high volume natural spring coming out of it. This cave was used for its pure spring water and not explored much over the years. The reason for the lack of exploration is due to the high volume of cold 43 degree water and diminished oxygen levels.
The pure spring water was used quite extensively, when the hotel and bottling plant were in operation. The hotel relied heavily on the spring water year- around for all modern amenities the hotel had at the time. They lifted the water through pipes to the hotel and bottling plant by a power free hydraulic ram pump"pulsation engine" that works solely off of gravity, hydraulic pressure and water pressure.
The spring was also known for it rich mineral content like Magnesium and used for its therapeutic qualities. The water was highly advertised to cure many ailments back in the day. They even had made two outdoor baths to submerge ones self in. The baths and pump house do not currently exist anymore at the park or on the private property. All we have left of all of these neat structures are pictures, writings and legends.
Today the Spring Cave entrance currently is NOT part of the 75 acre Maribel Caves Park. This cave on the adjacent private property and spring is only meant to be viewed by county provided viewing deck that is on County property. The entrance of the Spring Cave is on PRIVATE PROPERTY. PLEASE RESPECT THE PARK'S BOUNDARIES.
This cave open to view outside only to the during park hours.
Tartarus Cave System
Neither the exact discovery date of the historic Tartarus Cave, nor the identity of who named it, is known. But, its impressive bluff type entrance could hardly be missed. The Tartarus Cave System is today a three-entrance cave, with the Tunnel Passage Entrance to the south, the Tartarus Cave Entrance in the middle, and the Split Rock Cave Entrance to the north. With two recently discovered passages during the connection activities, one leading off towards the Staircase Cave and the other’s direction yet to be determined, the Tartarus Cave System will continue to bring us back so we can uncover more mysteries of the unknown. These passageways also have the potential for linking up with at least one, if not two sinkholes in the bluff above, that could soon provide other future cave entrances to this very fascinating, and evolving, cave system. Only the future will tell!
This cave open to the public only during special tour hours.
So little has been said or written about the Pancake Cave over the years that there is no official documented history on the cave known of yet. The cave is situated a ways off the banks of the West Twin River in the Wisconsin State Natural Area of Maribel Cave's County Park. The cave is located in the escarpment ridge that runs the length of the park measuring about sixty feet in height above the river bed. The entrance to the cave is almost at the top of the bluff line along the park bluff and is not easily reached. There are no natural trails to this cave other than a jagged talus climb. This cave is distinguished by its semi-circular entrance that just a few feet across with a small crevice looking entrance that makes for excellent photo shots. This cave goes in naturally about eight feet and is shaped like large pancake. This cave is solutional cave that is relatively quiet and dry with little or no water inside. All around the entrance in the talus pile you will find a neat array of moss covered boulders.
This cave is open to the public during park hours.
So little has been said and written about the Coopers Cave over the years other than a few old pictures. The cave is situated a ways off the banks of the West Twin River in the Wisconsin State Natural Area of Maribel Caves County Park. The cave is located in the escarpment ridge that runs the length of the park measuring about sixty feet in height above the river bed. The entrance to the cave is about midway along the park bluff and can be easily reached by a natural trail to it. This cave is distinguished by its large rectangular entrance and just a few feet away, a small crevice looking entrance that makes for excellent photo shots. This cave is a square tube solutional cave that is relatively quiet and dry with little or no water inside. About 9 feet below the entrance in the talus pile you will find a glistening natural spring that flows year round under the wooden bridge down to the West Twin River. This cave goes in naturally about 20 feet and has two bigger, almost standing height rooms. The caves are visited by hundreds of people every summer from many places around the world.
This cave open to the public during park hours.
Cave of Treasures
Cave of Treasures was discovered June 2nd 2013 by members of the Wisconsin Speleological Society, this cave is located just south beyond the Tartarus Cave System in the same bluff line. Cave of Treasures is the most recent discovered cave by the Wisconsin Speleological Society. Cave of Treasures entrance is just under 6ft high, turns sharply to the left and shrinks down to a passage about 3ft high. Cave of Treasures has many leads off the main passage that makes one feel like they're in a real maze, there is currently over 200ft of hands and knees crawling passage. It is believed that further excavation of the glacial sediment will open up more passageway continuations so it will eventually connect to the Tartarus Cave System just to the north.
This cave is open to the public only during during park hours.
Below are the groups that Maribel Caves works closely with to promote parks and caving in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Speleological Society
Manitowoc County Park System
Manitowoc County Parks Dept