Moaning Cavern was first discovered by gold miners in approximately 1851. They explored the cavern hoping to make a big strike, but finding insufficient gold for mining purposes, abandoned it.
Moaning Cavern was rediscovered in 1919. Legend has it that tourists were lowered into the cavern in ore buckets with only candles or whale oil lamps to light their way. Tours supposedly began in the summer of 1920.
The 100-foot steel spiral staircase, built in 1922 , was the first all arc-welded project ever in California. The steel that was used to build it came from the hull of a World War I battleship. Today visitors to Moaning Cavern climb down and then up 235 stairs, 144 of which are on the spiral staircase.
The bones of approximately 100 prehistoric humans were found at the bottom of Moaning Cavern. One skull was determined by uranium-thorium dating to be 13,000 years old. It is believed that these people fell into the cave accidentally over many hundreds of years.
Moaning Cavern is the largest single chamber public cave in California. The main room is large enough to fit the Statue of Liberty inside it and some of the cavern formations reach 25 feet in height.
Moaning Cavern's total depth is approximately 410 feet. Family walking tours descend 165 feet into the cavern as do rappelling trips, and Adventure Trips descend 300 feet into the cavern. While participating in the Adventure Trip at Moaning Cavern, visitors encounter some interesting places. "Pancake Room," "Godzilla's Nostril," "Column Squeeze," and "Meat Grinder" for instance.
Some scientists believe Moaning Cavern may have at one time been a geyser like "Old Faithful."
The name Moaning Cavern was given to the cave by early explorers who noticed a distant moaning sound created by drops of water that fall into holes in a flowstone formation with a bottle-like shape. The sound is similar to one you can make by blowing across the top of a partially full soda bottle. The cave lost its moan when the spiral staircase was built in 1922 due to debris being left in the flowstone formation's "moaning holes." The moan was restored in 1977 by Stephen and John Fairchild after they looked back through early records and traced the origin of the moaning sound. After clearing debris out of the holes and restoring the original flow of water in the cave, which had been diverted by the staircase construction, the brothers were able to bring this natural sound back to the cave.
The twin zip lines at Moaning Cavern Park were opened on July 28, 2007. Featuring log timber frame construction, the launch tower is accessed via a 25-foot long sky bridge. Take off is approximately 100 feet above ground level. After traveling along 1500-feet of cable at speeds in excess of 40 mph, zippers brake gently at the landing tower and are unclipped from the cable. After their first zip, zippers can choose to go super style, in which they fly along horizontally, face down. This more aerodynamic style of flight adds approximately 10 mph to the speed. Since they opened, our zip lines have proved to be the most popular activity amongst all those available at all of our locations.
In the same year, we installed our custom climbing tower. Participants are geared up in climbing harnesses, then clipped on to the route of their choice. Each of the 10 routes include life-like rock features and overhangs, making it one of the most competitive climbing surfaces available today.
In July, 2008, Stephen Fairchild, President of Cave and Mine Adventures, received the Innovations in Tourism award from the Calaveras Visitors Bureau, and an acknowledgement of his significant contributions to business in the region by Dana Jorgensen on behalf of Senator Dave Cox.