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Park Profile

More Things To Do Fly, climb and explore in upstate New York

Howe Caverns, outside Cobleskill, New York, is the largest cave open to the public in the north eastern United States. Over the last five years it’s also become home to a range of activities for guests keen to get active on a day out. Paul Ruben reports

new era began for Howe Caverns on April 19, 2007, when the cave was sold to two local men, Charles M Wright and Emil J Galasso, who planned to invest several million dollars in improvements. Last November at IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, Galasso unveiled plans for Dinosaur Canyon, a walk-through outdoor attraction that will offer visitors the opportunity to interact with prehistoric giants. An indoor waterpark hotel is also under consideration.

Howe Caverns A

“My vision is to create a destination resort,” explains Galasso. “Right now, even during these tough economic times, we’re getting nearly 200,000 visitors a year. We want to give them more to do while they’re here. Dinosaur Canyon will help us to become a true destination attraction. I feel like we’re bringing a bit of Disney to upstate New York.”

Howe Caverns general manager Robert Holt

This Lester Howe animatronic by Garner Holt Productions greets guests


Dinosaur Canyon will be located on 20 acres adjacent to Howe Caverns. Plans call for over two dozen highly realistic dinosaurs, situated in rock chasms, caverns and valleys. In the meantime, Howe Caverns discoverer Lester Howe has returned to his caverns in animatronic form for an all-new pre-tour show in which he regales visitors with his stories of the great wonder that bears his name. The new show was designed by Garner Holt Productions. Before making the 156ft (48m) elevator descent into the caverns, visitors meet Lester in his study – complete with Victorian-era furnishings, rocks and minerals, as well as artefacts and souvenirs from his Cave House Hotel. In addition to the animatronic figure, a special- effects-laden map outlines the path for visitors. Phase one of Wright and Galasso’s additions to the Caverns was the Howe High Adventure, opened this August and already meeting with an enthusiastic response from guests. It consists of two components, both by Ropes Courses Inc. A four-tower zip line measuring 950ft-long (290m), stands high above the ground, offering riders scenic views suspended up to 40ft (12m) in the air. The Sky Trail Ropes Course, meanwhile, is suitable for all ages and lets visitors go through a series of surprising and increasingly challenging activities.

Under construction for a 2012 is the Howe Caverns Mining Company, where visitors will be able to sift through bags of rough for gemstones, fossils and arrowheads to take home. Before that, heated picnic pavilion is expected to open, catering for birthdays, parties, weddings, company outings and other special events. “We had been surveying our guests for a few years as to where they were going after they visited the caverns,” reveals Howe Caverns general manager Robert Holt. “The one thing we heard the most was, ‘If you had more things to do here, we would stay longer.’ We put our thinking caps on and headed for the IAAPA show to get some ideas. Watching kids from four to much older on the demonstration ropes course made us decide that this would fit our clientele perfectly. We did not want Howe Caverns to become an amusement park with rides. Instead, we wanted to offer adventure type attractions that families could participate in together. A few of the cave attractions around the country have been offering zip lines and have been very successful with them and we thought it would be a natural fit too.” “People of all ages have enjoyed the ropes course and zip line to date,” observes Mark ‘Sparky’ Spaulding, the Caverns’ operations manager. “They give the guest a chance to overcome the fear of heights while tackling the anxiety of not being able to conquer the obstacle set before them. Usually a child has an easier time since they lack fear. It is amazing how an adult is pushed to their limit by the younger person in the family.”

Relationship Building “The zip line is another family relationship building experience,” Spaulding continues. "One must overcome the fear of heights. A typical person who is fearful usually has a hard time on the platform of the tower. With the help of the employees and family members, we have had very few back away from the experience. Since we have four zip lines connected among four towers, we see a transformation in each person by the time they finish the 900ft of zipping.” The addition of the ropes course and zip line have had a dramatic effect on business. “Since we began operation this summer with the new attractions, we

The Berdeaux Boat Ride gives great acccess to the caverns OCTOBER 2011

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