Where in Dane County Is the Simpson Street Free Press:
Seven Stories Beneath the Surface of the Earth
by Taylor Kilgore, 16
Recently, fellow Free Press reporters, Alex Lee, Pallav
Regmi, and I went on a trip to the “oldest classroom in the Wisconsin”.
The Cave of the Mounds is a national landmark located in Blue Mounds,
Wisconsin. There really is a lot to learn about this million-year old
Many tours are offered to help visitors learn, including an exhibit of
gem and fossil digs. Before our tour, we were shown a video on the Cave
of the Mounds history. It was discovered in 1939 after a quarry blast
revealed an underground tunnel. The blast opened a 20-foot high entrance
into a cave, which has come to be known as the Cave of The Mounds.
Lights were eventually installed, and the cave was opened to the public
in May of 1940.
Over 59,000 people came to visit the cave in the first eight weeks
after it opened. It has remained one of Dane County’s most popular
attractions ever since.
Once our tour began, we passed through three doors built to keep
animals out, and to keep the caves’ atmosphere as natural as possible.
We were amazed at the beautiful limestone walls of the cave. Walking
through twists and turns we came across a red light, which marked the
lowest point of the cave, seven stories underground. Our tour guide
pointed out stalactites, stalagmites, and even ribbon stalactites
refered to as “cave bacon.”
We learned that it takes 100 years for those cave formations to grow
only an inch. We walked into a beautiful room of the cave, called the
“cathedral.” It was named for its beauty and the columns at the back of
the cave room. It’s normal to find newlyweds on their honeymoon taking
During our visit, the cave was unexpectedly cold. We found out that
the cave stays at about fifty degrees year round. So in the summer, the
cave feels cool; in the winter it feels warm relative to the outside
The Cave of the Mounds’ founding family focuses on preserving the
cave as much as possible, and as a result nothing can ever touched or
removed. Even the gift shop doesn’t sell any cave artifacts in
accordance with state law.
After our tour we received two bags of sand filled with fossils and
inexpensive gems to put in wooden crates with mesh at the bottom of
them. We sifted like gold minors, leaving the treasures in sight. It was
interesting partaking in an activity that allowed us to discover to
learn what specific treasures we collected
The Cave of the Mounds is more than a place for tours and treasures.
It also includes a prairie, rock garden, butterfly exhibit, and hiking
trails. Throughout these exhibits, there are cool sinkholes formed by
potential caves. I recommend visiting the Cave of the Mounds. You are
sure to have a great time learning and experiencing the kind of nature
you may not see anywhere else.