One of the casualties of the Rough Fire in 2015 was Boyden Cavern, a marble cave deep in the Sequoia National Forest.
This is a wondrous underground structure – stalagmites (growing up from the floor) and stalactites (hanging down from the ceiling) formed over 100,000 years.
The blaze burned through more than 150,000 acres in the Sequoia and Sierra national forests, destroying the wood deck and side railing of a bridge that served as the only public walkway to the cavern. The fire also damaged a generator building and lighting system and led to a legal battle over who was financially responsible for the repairs.
“It came down to funding,” says Diane Bidell, the recreation staff officer for the Hume Lake Ranger District.
But after being closed to the public for close to four years, Boyden Cavern officially reopened to the public Saturday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration. Visitors must pass through Kings Canyon National Park to reach the cavern. It’s on the road that leads down to the river gorge.
Daily public tours are available, on the hour, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day. The hour-long tours are $16 for adults and $8 for ages 5-12. Children 4 and younger are $5.
Tickets are available online at boydencavern.com or in person at the gift shop, located 19 miles east of Grant Grove on Highway 180.
The tours are appropriate for first-timers – with an easy-to-follow cement path with handrails through most of the cavern – but will offer unique formations for the more experienced cavers, says Maria Baker, who runs the tours with husband Daniel Baker.
The tours can sell out on busy weekends, so plan ahead, she says.
That includes bringing a jacket. The temperature inside the cave is 55 degrees.
Boyden Cavern is named for JP Boyden, a Hume Lake logger who discovered the cave and lived inside it for several years before it was acquired by the federal government in 1883. A trail and pathway to the cave were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and there have been public tours since the 1950s, Bidell says.
“People here are very excited to see it opening again,” she says.
None more so perhaps than the Bakers, who met and fell in love while working at Boyden Cavern.
“They have poured their hearts and souls into making this happen,” Bidell says. “It really is a labor of love.”
They want to serve as stewards of the land and the cave and offer the tour as a way to teach people that caverns like this deserve to be protected.
“We also love to share information about the area with our guests,” Maria Baker says, “whether it is our favorite hikes, where the coolest gneiss rock is, or how to get to the closest gas station.”