May 30, 1940: Smoke Hole Caverns Opens for Tours in Grant County


On May 30, 1940, Smoke Hole Caverns in Grant County opened for tours. Of our state’s four commercial caves, the Smoke Hole Caverns is likely the most visited.

The Smoke Hole Caverns developed along bedding planes that were tilted into a vertical position by the Earth’s tectonic movements. Only about a third of the available cavern space is open to the public. It features openings of more than 100 feet in height, beautifully decorated stalactites hanging in rows along the ceiling, and numerous calcite flowstone draperies lining the walls. The main room is called the “Room of a Million Stalactites.”

The caverns are located near the Smoke Hole Canyon, an 18-mile-long gorge that runs through Grant and Pendleton counties. It supposedly was named for a cave chamber where Indians and early settlers smoke-cured meat.

Before World War II, the Smoke Hole was known for its remote, unique culture, not to mention a long history of making moonshine whiskey. The region is better known today for recreational opportunities. For the last half-century, the Smoke Hole Canyon has been part of the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area.