When the itch for adventure calls, set out for an afternoon family hike to the Maribel Caves! They are a geological wonder and cleverly offer a unique lesson in Wisconsin’s rich history!
Located in Cherney Maribel Caves County Park in Maribel, Wisconsin, a collection of caves is nestled among 75 acres along the West Twin River. Known as the first county park in the Manitowoc vicinity, its rugged terrain was formed during the ice age when glaciers wore down the land and exposed underlying rock layers. This created various crevices and holes and allowed water to enter and form the intricate cave systems. These caves were then discovered in 1892 on land once owned by Maribel resident Henry Alrich.
Later, the property connected to the park was purchased by Charles Steinbrecher who built the nearby Maribel Caves Hotel in 1900. The hotel, which also included a horse stable, welcomed an influx of visitors to the area and many began exploring the caves. At one time, the natural springs in the adjacent caves were used to supply fresh water to hotel guests.
Despite now being private property, an outline of the hollow hotel and stable ruins are still visible today from the park and roadway. They are no longer a part of the park itself but are still an interesting historical landmark to see and photograph. The current owner of the property that the hotel ruins occupy does not appreciate folks trespassing to explore the hotel. Pay attention to private property signs and be sure to stay on public property.
Seven caves were discovered for the park, including Coopers Cave, Staircase Cave, Pancake Cave, Spring Cave, Maribel New Hope Cave, the Tartarus Cave System, and the Cave of Treasures. Each cave has unique features and individual complexities. While some are inaccessible to explore, others offer up an intriguing adventure for families.
The Maribel New Hope Cave, the largest cave in Manitowoc county, is the most popular to visit and the most easily accessible to the public and those with children. It offers walking passageways with electric floodlights and gives visitors brilliant examples of stalagmites, stalactites, helictites, and what is known as cave bacon! Those new to hiking all the way up to experienced explorers can definitely enjoy an afternoon here!
Caves and crevices that are open and accessible when the park is open:
- Coopers Cave
- Staircase Cave
- Pancake Cave
- Tunnel Passage
- Cave of Treasures
- Spring Cave (by viewing deck only)
Caves open only for set tours:
- Maribel New Hope Cave
- Tartarus Cave System
Guided tours are available during open park hours when volunteers are available. See their website for complete information while planning your trip. Guests are asked to wear masks, comfortable shoes, and to bring a flashlight.
However, some caves, like the Cave of Treasures, introduce quite a peculiar challenge. The cave, which is the park’s most recent discovery, is located just beyond the Tartarus Cave System in the bluff. It consists of a three-foot-high entrance and over 70 feet of crawlway passages and tunnels that require cave goers to explore on their hands and knees! While it would surely be a breeze for young children, families should opt for another area to explore instead.
Luckily, not all of the caves and nooks here are complicated. The area generally offers a beautiful look into nature, including lush greenery, babbling brooks, and little animals scurrying about. Those interested in exploring the caves but prefer extra guidance will enjoy the opportunity for a free guided tour. The Manitowoc County Parks Department and the Wisconsin Speleological Society provide tours on a volunteer basis.
When visiting this park, it’s important to plan out your visit and to explore with curiosity and a little caution.
Tips for Exploring:
- Check the weather before venturing out to ensure a safe outing
- Bring plenty of water and a first aid kit
- Hike using the buddy system
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes
- Follow park signage and refrain from attempting to explore prohibited or inaccessible areas
Many bats call these caves home, don’t be alarmed if you find them hanging around while touring the caves. Just be sure to encourage children not to touch or otherwise harass these beneficial critters. If you’ve explored other caves that house bats, be sure to clean clothes, shoes, and any gear before entering the Maribel Caves to help prevent the transmission of White Nose Syndrome.
The park and its caves offer families a dose of tranquility sprinkled with adventure, and visitors tend to spend several hours here. The park does offer restrooms, picnic areas, and a playground near the parking lot area for children. Between exploring the caves and embracing the opportunity for adventure, this trek will not disappoint!
Park maps and more information about tour dates are available at www.maribelcaves.com.
- Biking and hiking trails
- Picnic areas with tables, shelters, and grills
Cherney Maribel Caves County Park, County Highway R, Maribel, Wisconsin