I have a nostalgic streak that draws me to historic places. When deciding which attractions to visit this season, I went off the familiar path and chose an Adirondack attraction I had driven past the signs for all my life but never visited. I was excited at the prospect of finally visiting this natural wonder.
One of our oldest and best attractions
Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is one of the Adirondack's oldest natural attractions. The business has been operated by different members of the same family for more than five decades. Surveys have concluded that the Stone Bridge appears to be the largest natural marble cave entrance in the eastern United States. Greg Beckler is the current family member to own and operate the business. We chatted with Greg after our tour and he filled me in on a lot of history and some of the expansion they've done in recent years.
An 1824 passage from A Gazetteer of the State of New York by Horatio Gates Spafford, describes the stone bridge and cave:
"The STONE BRIDGE, in this town is a very great natural curiosity, and has given the name Stone-Bridge Creek, to a small stream that runs under it. This stream rises in Essex County, and enters Chester about 30 rods above the Bridge, and immediately falls over a rocky precipice, into a large natural Basin; whence turning easterly, enters its subterranean passage in two branches. The northern branch enters its passage under an arch of massive granite 40 feet high, and about 80 feet broad at the base, gradually diminishing in capacity as you descend. A person may follow the stream with ease, 156 feet from the entrance, where it becomes co contracted as to check any farther progress. At a short distance, the southern and principal branch enters its passage amidst a heap of stones and rubbish that almost conceal the entrance; and though with difficulty, its passage has been explored. In some places, very much confined, in others it opens into caverns of 30 or 40 feet diameter, and filled with water to a great depth. At the distance of 247 feet from the entrance, the waters disembogue in one stream, having united in the subterranean passage; and here is a precipice of rock 54 feet high, which terminates the Bridge. The arch through which the water discharges is about 10 feet wide and 5 high. This stream enters the Scaroon River, about ¾ of a mile below the outlet of Scaroon Lake, and the Stone Bridge is about 3 miles NW from the mouth of the Creek."
The above ground tour
Greg was kind enough to give me a thumb drive with some great images of old maps and brochures from the past days of the attraction. The tour map from the 50s is one of my favorites. Keep in mind the current tour is somewhat expanded from this older map as they have added some walkways since that time, and there is a walkway across the top of the stone bridge. But, you'll get the general idea from this map. Oh, and they'll give you a brand spanking new map when you go.
As you can see, the paths wind around the edges of Trout Brook, which runs through the property. It's lined with wooden walkways, stairs, railings and beautiful meditation spots along the way. We marveled at some of the tiny and noisy caves with the brook rushing through them. We've had a very dry summer here in the Adirondacks this year. Fortunately, just prior to my visit, the region experienced some big storms, dumping quite a large amount of rain on the area. Naturally the rain caused the water levels to rise in the rivers and streams, so we were able to experience the attraction with a fairly normal amount of water flowing.
The day we toured was a beautiful, hot summer day and the attraction was very busy. Lots of visitors of all ages were scurrying around the rocks and walkways around the property. Little kids were marveling at the caves and the loud water sounds inside them. Noisy Cave is one of the caves visitors can walk into. Trout Brook rushes through the cave as you watch the electric lighting change color from green to blue to red to purple. It's pretty cool and we readily understood why it was named Noisy Cave - we could not hold a conversation inside!
It took us about an hour and a half to walk the entire tour, taking time to stop for a snack with a lovely family from Connecticut, who so generously offered us some of their treats and water. The Lilaporia family, from Connecticut, had chosen to visit by suggestion of their three young daughters, who were making all the holiday decisions and plans for this vacation. I love that idea! I think more families should do this - that way the kids can't complain when they don't like the itinerary —because it's all theirs. The girls obviously had a great time judging by all the smiles:
Highlights of the tour
A great resting spot along Trout Brook, known as Serenity Park
There are wonderful benches and stopping points to take a break and contemplate the beauty
This is the site of a former sawmill on Trout Brook
You can see why this cave is known as "Tiny Cave"
Walking along the huge expanses of rock downstream from the Bridge
Natural Stone Bridge is also a great location for a wedding!
Fall foliage season is a perfect time to visit and capture nature's spectacle
Some really cool 'potholes' as seen from the walkway above - these are carved out by the force of the water raging against rocks swirling around within the hole.
Join an adventure tour and get inside the caves
If you aren't claustrophobic and you don't mind getting wet and dirty, sign up for one of the Adventure Tours led by a guide through some of the amazing caverns and waterfalls. The tour is offered once a day on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday each week during summer, ending the last day of August. If you miss it this year, make sure you visit during the summer months next year to take advantage of this very cool trip through the attraction. Watch the video above for the better picture of the Adventure Tour.
It's a tight squeeze through parts of the Adventure Tour. Put on your brave pants and give it a try next summer!
There are many more activities in the park for adults and kids alike - mining, climbing, disc golf, and much more.
And of course, there are winter snowshoe adventures.
If you're a rock hound, you won't want to miss the gift shop. Greg told me they make regular rock buying trips to Tucson, Arizona, and rocks shows in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. These are apparently the big shows in the rock world. The rock shop is filled with hundreds of amazing rock and mineral specimens, most of which are for sale. There are Mexican geodes with surprises inside that you can buy, and they will split them open for you to find your special surprise minerals. There are many items on display that are not for sale, but you can buy items ranging from .10 cents to $10,000.00! Don't miss at least browsing around the rock and gift shops before departing.
Plan your trip
Plan a trip to the Schroon Lake Region and take advantage of all the fall attractions and events in the region. Visit Natural Stone Bridge and Caves website for much more history, as well as admission information. The park is open through September 5th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and September 6th to October 10th, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Be sure to arrive 90 minutes before closing time to assure yourself the time for the full experience.
Of course, Mother Nature's fall foliage spectacular is the biggest attraction in fall. What better backdrop than to spend a few days visiting and touring. Don't wait til the last minute to make your lodging plans — plan now to visit soon!
This week in related ADK awesome autumn activities: