Deep Dive Into Lockport Cave

Check out the lock.

If you ever plan to take a trip around Niagara County, New York, there is no doubt that you will return home with memories of some of the most overwhelming, exciting, and exhilarating experiences.

From some of the most beautiful and thunderous waterfalls in the world to many incredible man made natural reserves and aquariums, this part of the state is indeed booming with the most excellent tourist destinations everyone should visit at least once in their lives.

However, if you think that Northwestern New York is only famous for the wondrous Niagara Falls, you are quite wrong. Instead, another key attraction that has a uniquely mysterious and frightening allure like no other is the many natural and manmade caverns in the city. 

You have probably heard about the underground Catacombs of Paris, but do you know about the hidden underground caves of Lockport?

Concealed from the rest of the world, the Lockport caves are underground man made caves that one can visit by paying for a boat ride.

Although the Lockport caves are quite a spectacle for all first-time and frequent visitors; however, this site also has a dark and spine-chilling history that has brought shame to the people of the city of Lockport.

Keep reading the remaining article below to learn about the interesting yet disturbing history of the underground Lockport Cave tunnels, their unique geology, and their location.

Where is it Located?

If you ever plan to visit the great Niagara Falls, do not end your trip just there. Instead, make a 30-minute drive to visit the historical, dark, and remarkable underground tunnels of the Lockport Cave.

Located on Gooding Street, in the city of Lockport, Niagara County, New York, the Lockport caves are just a 30-minute drive from Niagara Falls or Buffalo County.

Since these tunnels are usually filled 20-feet deep with water, the only way to experience the Erie Canal is by paying for the boat ride trip. The price for the boat trip can vary seasonally, and it usually takes a total of 75 minutes for the complete underground tour.

Although not many tourists do not usually know about the fantastic destination, it is still better to reserve your tour beforehand to ensure you do not have to wait in line.

The History of Lockport Cave Tunnels

The story behind this monster.

Enriched and tainted with the stories of ancient engineering, haunting accidents, and extremely dark child abuse, the history of Lockport Caves is one that always stirs-up a range of conflicting emotions.

While many people admire the brilliance of the historical underground tunnels, some simply cannot agree to giving their approval due to its disturbing history.

Built in the late 19th century, the underground Lockport Cave tunnels were made to transport water from the upstate Erie Canal, in order to power the many businesses and activities taking place alongside the waterway.

These tunnels were designed by one of most influential inventors and businessmen of that time, Birdsill Holly, who initially planned the construction of these tunnels to direct the flow of water towards his own Holly Manufacturing Company.

It took nearly eight years of basting and mining to finally complete the half-mile-long, underground Lockport Cave tunnel.

Although one cannot deny that the engineering, design, and purpose of the Lockport Cave is quite an astounding achievement for the late 1900s; however, it was the way the construction took place that caused the real problem.

Holly may be a great inventor; however, his designs lacked some of the key features and standards of modern-day construction. Hence, many accidents have been reported ever since the cave’s construction.

Moreover, apart from the architectural problems, the main reason behind the cave’s notoriety is the horrible misuse and abuse of orphaned children that took place during its construction.

Back in the 1860s, Holly used young orphaned children for most of the cave’s mining. He specifically selected only orphaned children to ensure no one comes around looking for them.

Since these children were made to light gunpowder in the small holes and crevices of the caves in order to blast them, Holly’s lack of human empathy led him to nickname his young abused workers ‘powder monkeys’.

The children had to quite literally run back for their lives as the gunpowder caught the spark and exploded.

Furthermore, apart from the unforgivable child abuse and inhumane working conditions, it is also reported that the young workers were often paid in the form of whiskey.

Today, people of the city of Lockport claim that the souls of the killed child laborers still haunt the Erie Canal and the underground Lockport Cave.  

New York’s Lockport Caves’ Geology

The walls of the notorious Lockport Cave underground tunnels are made mainly from underlying dolomite and limestone bedrock.

Moreover, the floor of the 2100-foot tunnel is usually always filled with water. Hence, the only scarce vegetation that can be found in these tunnels are those that thrive in dark and moist conditions.

Interesting Facts About Lockport Cave

  • The method that Holly designed to pump out water was brilliant enough to draw Thomas Edison’s attention.
  • Not only did Edison visit the tunnel, but he also offered his appreciation.
  • Moreover, Holly held almost 150 patents for some of the unique inventions that were used in the Lockport Cave.
  • In 2012, after claims of the tunnels being haunted, the globally famous ‘Ghost Hunters’ visited the Lockport Cave as part of their annual Halloween special.

Things to do at Lockport Cave

What is in there?
  • Experience the underground tunnel boat ride
  • Participate in the Haunted Cave Lantern tour
  • Walk around the caves, where the floor is rocky and dry
  • Zip across the Erie Canal on the recently installed Niagara Zipper

What Should You Pack Before Leaving for Lockport Cave

  • A pair of dry clothes
  • Water shoes
  • A towel
  • Flashlight
  • Camera (ideally a waterproof one)
  • Your favorite snacks and drinks (ideally pack a hot drink to keep yourself from catching a cold)

Final Thoughts

If you ever find yourself visiting Buffalo or Niagara County, make sure to make a small trip down to the city of Lockport to visit its haunting and mesmerizing underground Lockport Cave tunnel.

All you need is a flashlight and a good quality camera, along with your favorite snacks to make the most of the 75-minute boat ride tour.

The McClain Family

We hope we helped. Please let us know of any place that you want to know about in NYS or if we did a poor job with any part of this. Our goal is to help as many people as possible.

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