Knox Cave History - June, 1963

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY

From Northeast Regional Organization (NRO) Report #10. "Knox Cave" June 1963


-- David C. Palmer

Knox Cave has reputedly been known to explorers for over 200 years. The first measures to open the cave to the public were taken in 1933 by D.C. Robinson of Esperance, who leased the cave from Truax, the owner of the property. The oink and entrance were cleared of debris by blasting, lights were installed and stairs put in. Opening for the first time on May 30, 1933, the parts of the cave exhibited were the Big Room, Dungeon, and Indian Passage, the first two fissure passages east, of the entrance passage, and the route leading to the Gunbarrel.

In 1935 Robinson commenced the construction of the Knox Roller Rink next to the cave, aided by R.A. Stephenson. Before its completion, Stephenson decamped with the funds for the rink and was never apprehended. A further setback occurred when the lighting system was destroyed by lightning, but it was restored immediately. Work on the rink was continued by Robinson, and two years later the rink opened for business under the direction of Charles Zwetsch. Since that time the rink has been leased to a number of people, and is now being operated by Merlin Tubbs.

During the 1930's the cave had gained so much popularity that on certain weekends up to 1000 people are reported to have been guided through it. In maintaining the cave Robinson was aided by Mel Duell, D.S. Brown, and R. F. Peugh. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson bought the property in 1937 and took up residence near the cave.

In 1945 the Weber brothers of Albany were hired to replace the stairs in the cave. This is the staircase which is presently in use. In 1953 and 1954 Cliff Forman, Robert Kronsberg and Warren Enck operated the cave and undertook extensive clearing operations. Prior to this time all that was known of the cave was the section which extended to the Broken Room. In 1954 a large new area was discovered by probing through breakdown in the Broken Room, including most of the known cave north of the entrance sink. Credit for this discovery is attributed to an explorer named Negley, who is also reputed to have discovered a 2400-foot passage beyond the Alabaster Room and a passage leading from the Fish Pool. He claimed to have found a passage rising behind a 6-inch curtain to the east of the Big Room above the floor level, which led to a room so vast that he could not see the other side. His fear of losing track of the entrance passage prevented his exploration of the room. He was later unable to locate the room. Ten years of exploration by other cavers have failed to uncover any of the latter three areas.

On October 12, 1958, during a fall N.R.O. trip, happiness reigned in the Big Room of Knox Cave as Robert Richter and Linne Svenssen were married there by the Rev. Carl Hoeldtke of Calvary Baptist Church in Albany. One hundred sixty guests attended, -4- many of whom were N.R.O. members clad in helmets and coveralls.

In 1957 and 1958 the cave was operated by Perry Waldorf, with Jim Proper of Berne and Jim Lane of Delanson as guides. This was the last organized attempt to commercialize the cave. D.C. Robinson died in January, 1959, and since then the commercial facilities of the cave have fallen into disrepair. Reopening of the cave would necessitate considerable repairs in the staircases and lighting systems.


-- Arthur N. Palmer

The map of Knox Cave on the following page is the result of the superposition of detailed Brunton surveys upon a control survey of greater accuracy. Numerous data checks and resurveys were carried out as the drafting proceeded, with the result that in either the horizontal or vertical components of the survey the total error is estimated to be within five feet in relation to the entrance in any portion of the map.

The detail survey was prepared in an effort to represent accurately the wall contours, orientation of cave features, and relationship between passage widths and lengths. The top of the staircase at the edge of the entrance sink was selected as the base station, with a survey elevation of 0. Sightings made on a key bed of shaly limestone which appears in a number of places throughout the cave provided an adequate check on the accuracy of the vertical component of the survey. From these measurements the regional dip was calculated at 2.3°, which agrees with an earlier alidade reading of 2°19' taken in the entrance room. Alignment of passages and fissures on the map testifies to the accuracy of the horizontal component of the survey.

Approximately 3010 feet of passages appear on the map: 1430 feet before the Gunbarrel and 1580 feet beyond (and including) the Gunbarrel. The deepest point in the cave lies near the end of the fissure extending beyond the Dungeon: 138 feet below the base station. The joint set with the greatest influence over the passage pattern consists of vertical joints with strikes between N10°E and N20°E (declination accounted for). Most of the prominent fissure passages in the cave trend N17°- 20°E, while the Gunbarrel trends N10° E. Nearly all of the remaining passages are developed along joints striking N72°W and N82°W.

As the popularity of Knox Cave has grown, a wealth of nomenclature has evolved in reference to many of its features. In an effort to avoid undue cluttering of the map, only the oldest and most thoroughly-established names appear here.