History of Spirit Mountain Caves

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West of town, there’s a winding, unpaved road up Cedar Mountain at the top is a small, rusty brown sign. The sign itself is hardly noticeable. However, it marks  the turnoff to Wyoming’s first and only delisted national monument.

Spirit Mountain Cave was discovered in 1908, by guide Ned Frost. In 1909, it was named a national monument, which was Wyoming’s second. It was envisioned as a major tourist attraction for Cody. There were several problems with the plan. It was a remote location and at the time it was a three hour trek to get to the cave. A cave is harder to market than a landmark like Devil’s Tower. If it was to become the tourist attraction the town envisioned it would have to be commercialized.

The only problem was that if it was to be commercialized it couldn’t be a National Monument. So the City of Cody applied to have Spirit Mountain Cave delisted to take ownership of it. The National Parks Service accepted. With only token resistance Wyoming’s second national monument became the nation’s first former national monument.

Claud Brown bought the cave from the city and tried to make Spirit Mountain Cave into Cody’s hidden gem. He ran electric lights along the cave ceiling and put wooden boardwalks and ladders in the more treacherous areas of the cave. In his mind he envisioned a gondola that would take tourists from the Cody Stampede Park up to the cave. However, despite his best efforts he went bankrupt in the attempt.

The next person the city sold the cave to was a merchant who had far less admirable intentions than Brown. He stole the crystals from the cave and when it was sucked dry he sold the cave back to the city.

With the city it remains. There is a massive metal gate across the opening. The key costs $20 to rent from the BLM. Spirit Mountain Cave is an excellent example of what could have been. It could have been a premier attraction. Now it is no more than a forgotten hole in the ground with a gate and a small sign.