The Cave

If you dare, come along on my hike to the Devil’s Hole Cave in winter. This cave has a tale spun around it by the Seneca Indians; they called it ‘The Cave of the Evil Spirit’. There was a rock, that if a hand was laid upon it, would keep the devil away for a year. I think it is gone now and was a ceremonial rock.

Luckily, Lucifer was out causing mayhem somewhere else when we arrived, but does he not have beautiful accommodations?

Let’s see how we had to get here. Here is my husband climbing the rock slide. I am not so close behind. This looks deceptive. The climb is both steep and difficult. The gorge cliff face is very high. It is distorted a bit because I too am on the incline and throwing off the perspective.

Here is how steep this hill slopes. Imagine this angle of repose. This is the view to the right of the cave opening.

Here we are looking to the left of the cave opening.

Look at my husband’s feet. This was a very bad spot to try to navigate. One misstep and no more GWGT.ย  This is how we got back to the trail. It is an actual trail, but was taken out by the rock slides, like the rather large one he is leaning on.

Well, now some cave images. This small cave is carved into the Niagara Gorge. It is developed in Decew Dolostone, a very fine crystalline dolostone that is mostly a dark gray color. The rock dates from the Silurian Period and is over 400 million years old.

The name came from a Seneca legend that those that entered would befall misfortune and disaster. This was a sacred place to them and they held ceremony outside the cave. Still want to come in?

Is it not a crime what people do to deface such a wonderful natural place? And look at the boulder that fell in front of the opening. They even painted it too. The cave has had its photo taken many times through history. Here are just a few well known images.

You can see how the shape of the entrance of the cave changed over the span of 150 years.

You may also notice the cave was not defaced as far back as 1948.

A Seneca ceremonial rock is no longer present.

There was a massacre here in 1763. I was not going to mention it here, but you can look this up on your own. You will be surprised at what occurred and who was massacred. Not what you might expect. That is also why it is called Massacre Cave.

The stories are far grander than the cave itself. BTW. I did not hear voices in the cave which is often reported, but I did fall into a rather large hole in the dark.

Let us go in and take a look around. Sorry, I forgot the flashlight, so we will have to make do with the camera flash.

A lot of red clay is washed out of the cave by natural springs within. Also, look at the rock with the large scoop taken out. Do you see an eerie face?

Is it me, or does this not look like a petrified toad in the lower right, by the rock. My husband thought it looked like a beaver. But that looks like a big toad. It was so dark in here, the flash was our only means of light. We did not see it until I uploaded the images. I so want to go back and see it again. And speaking of life stopped in time, here are a couple of fossils from the gorge.

The cave is a little over six-foot high and over 25 feet long, before it narrows so that an adult sized human can not pass through. This indicates that the cave, long ago, was much deeper, but the settling and rock movement of the gorge made passage impossible.

A small rock from inside the cave with some remnants of life.

A much smaller rock with fossilized worms (I think) from a Gorge walk in summer.

How is this for scale? My husband is six foot one. The image below is taken from the mouth of the entrance looking out.

This is the opening in full size, from inside the cave, below. This is no Crystal Cave, like where I am from in Pennsylvania or Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, but it is kinda a fun little cave with a hauntingly cursed tale.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
This entry was posted in garden, Niagara Falls, Strange Landscapes, Winter and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to The Cave

  1. Dear Donna, Wow! I feel I was right there with you and I was scared! Well photographed and documented. The graffiti is definitely criminal! P x

  2. One says:

    The images are gorgeous though they are mostly shades of brown and white. (The ones I took yesterday at the Nature Park were mostly shades of green.) I think I see a toad but not a beaver. It is a pity that the cave is painted. I am glad your husband came along with you to the cave.

    • I think the brown and white is so calming and peaceful at this time of year. You could never see the gorge in its entirety in summer, like I have been showing it. The trees mask out most of this. That (and safety) is way I did not go down to the water. The trees let me see it clearly. My husband actually offered. I was so surprised.

  3. The graffiti is discouraging, but the exploration was fun. This time your husband, the next time you?

  4. I’ve been inside that cave and never knew any of its history — thanks. Next time we hike in there, in MUCH better weather, I can now be the Cliff Claven of the cave.

  5. It often happens that there is more to see in a photograph than one has noticed when actually there. And what a ‘there’ to be in!


  6. makarimi says:

    Great post, but the graffiti definitely crime and it’s spoil the natural ;( Thanks for sharing.

    • I was so tempted to Photoshop out the graffiti. Not for the reason of a better picture, but because these thugs do not need internet immortality. There are chemicals that can remove this from the cave face. We specify its use in architecture when we have to do restoration work for limestone morter. I hope one day the Parks Service cleans it off, but my guess is with 400 million year old stone this maybe why they have not. It may damage the porous rock.

  7. I love caves, and that looks like a great one, though I agree, the graffiti is criminal. It makes me so sad that people can do such things, how can they not sense the wonder and excitement of such a place? If they could, they wouldn’t deface it. I think caves are at their best when they have a challenging approach, it makes them more mysterious somehow, but your snow-covered rock slides take that to a new level. Glad you were not alone on that trek!

    • This cave had a gentle trail to it before the major rock slide. Then the Park Department built a stone wall blocking the trail for peoples safely. Like I mentioned yesterday in my post on Ducks, the Parks Department has made an all out effort to reduce tragedy at the Falls. Someday I will post on their daring rescues. You will not believe these stories. These men at the Parks and Police are the braves men I ever saw in action. Truly heroes ricking their lives for others.

  8. Alistair says:

    Great story,criminal destruction, I thought it was only in the uk that this sort of thing went on. Take another look at the picture, hows this for scale. Looking on screen just to your husbands right which makes it his left side of course, there is a distinct image of a man sitting beside him.

    • I thought I saw a sitting man too, but my husband thinks I am seeing things. It was too much to ask bloggers to click for a bigger image to see these things, and I am soooo glad you saw this too.

  9. patty says:

    That was an enjoyable trip. I do not see the face or the man but there is a toad.
    Regarding the conference, totally my failure to get the info to you. I wavered because I thought, Oh why would she come here for a conference. Our own group is holding a tech update in mid September at the Botanical Gardens. I will keep you posted on that.

    • Patty, you had to click to enlarge, especially that image. He is in such shadow that when it is bigger you can see the eyes first.

      I would have come to the conference. But when it started snowing so I hard I told my husband that I was glad I did not go.

  10. Cat says:

    Donna, you had me scared! It is a beautiful spot and I can see why you’d love to hike there. But alas, I mostly find myself thinking…why doesn’t your husband have a hat on?!? OMGosh, I’m such a wimp!

  11. debsgarden says:

    Ducks (and people) over the falls and now a cave haunted by Lucifer and, no doubt, those who were massacred there! Interesting stuff! I think you are very brave to climb that rock wall in the snow, and I think the people who defaced the cave deserve whatever curse came upon them.

    • That is the story. Those that were massacred are supposed to be crying in the cave. I did not hear this, but the wind was calm too. FYI. Those that were massacred were British. The Senecas drove them over the precipice to there deaths. The story is really interesting. Just Google Devil’s Hole Massacre, or better yet, visit the Falls and the handout materials that the paid tour guides provide have these stories so I am told.

  12. lifeshighway says:

    I just want to cry to see how this beautiful wonder is defaced.

  13. Andrea says:

    What a fantastic adventure. You surely mesmerized us with that double suspense: suspense of what happened and what might have happened to you. I wonder why you chose this time to get there when it is more dangerous. I am worried while going through it because i’m afraid there might be another rock slike which could have trapped you inside! Wondered why i had that feeling when i was very sure you are safe because this post wont happen if it happened!!! silly thoughts. But please, if you will go there again, leave your details to someone or have someone along to be left outside the cave. Do i sound like a mom, haha! Donna, i hope you take care.

    BTW, in that photo where your husband is already entering, there was this photo of a child at the left side just below the 2 blocks of rock. However, i did not see the man suggested to be near him when he was sitting.

  14. Andrea. Did you mean the child with the mouth open wide. I saw that one too, opposite the frog. I really do have to go back with a flashlight in summer. Not spring, because that is when most of the rockslides occur.

    But the reason that I went in winter is because it is so pretty, and also because you can see the whole gorge without the leaves on the trees. The ice stabilizes the rocks on the incline better than the mud in spring. Only the smallest ones moved at all.

    It was surprisingly easy to climb up, but neither of us wanted to climb back down. My husband went ahead and checked out the old trail and the only difficult spot is where I showed him standing to the left of the opening, if looking from the cave entrance out. Plus I had to climb over a wall with rock points on top. I had to take off my coat to sit it on the points. It was very sharp. The Parks people built it this way to keep visitors from entering the old trail.

  15. Gail says:

    I loved this armchair (desk chair actually) adventure. It’s a shame that people deface a wonderful natural element like this cave~Your first photo is my favorite~the cave frames the woods beyond beautifully. gail

  16. Donna, thanks for once again braving the weather to take us on an adventure. Glad your husband went with you on this one. I didn’t see the sitting man next to your husband until Alistair mentioned it, but scrolling back I do see it. I don’t think I will ever understand how some can get pleasure in defacing nature, it’s awful.

  17. Your photo looking out of the cave is enchanting! I was sad to learn there is so much graffiti on the other side. Also, kudos for hiking in the snow!

  18. Karen says:

    Donna, I was so enthralled by the Devil’s Cave and did an internet search on the massacre. Such history! I wanted to comment sooner, but got too caught up in the history and research of the place.

    I hate graffiti too, it’s a shame kids have the need to deface something in order to prove to someone they exist. We have many areas like this in Wisconsin, too, and they are almost all painted, with the exception of some of the State Natural Areas…and I think the state figured out something, especially with Parfrey’s Glen near Wisconsin Dells….the parking lot is over a mile from the actual stone formations making it a long walk for would-be vandals to haul their lazy behinds which may be why there isn’t as much criminal activity there. However, having said that, seeing the climb and reading about the amount of effort it took you to get to the Cave, I guess that’s not the answer to deterring crime either, as obviously it takes quite a bit of incentive to actually get to the site. I guess if they want to bad enough, they’ll find a way to ruin it for everyone else.

    Thank you so much for this series, Donna, and I’m glad you and your husband made it out of there with no injuries!

  19. Yours is such an adventurous and scenic blog – what an enjoyable virtual tour without personally having to brave the cold and the precipitous climb. On the other hand, your images are so enticing that I would have liked to visit this cave if only people had not left their scars and ghosts. Thanks Donna

  20. Jennifer says:

    Your commentary made me feel like i was right there! Just looking at the entrance to the cave made me feel claustrophobic. I can’t imagine that I would be able to step inside!

Comments are closed.