Cave of the Mounds

© Photographed October 18, 2015
Erected by Cave of the Mounds
Blue Mounds, Dane County, Wisconsin
Google Map

Cave of the
was discovered on August 4th, 1939
during the routine quarry blast on the
side of historic Brigham Farm
Brigham Farm, surrounding Cave of the Mounds, is the oldest farm in Dane County and the land has remained with the Brigham family ever since.

the most important industry in the region in the early 1800s was lead mining, and that is what first brought Ebenezer Brigham to Blue Mounds. Brigham's enterprising spirit helped Blue Mounds flourish for years as a lead mining and other industries grew. In fact, Blue Mounds became such an important settlement, that school geography books once actually described Milwaukee as a "village on Lake Michigan east of Blue Mounds."

Decades later, Ebenezer's nephew Charles Brigham, Sr. was building his house and discovered a large concentration of high quality limestone rock here on Brigham Farm. The resulting Brigham quarry served many local needs, but it was never a very active site for limestone removal. Many geologists, however, used the quarry for educational purposes because of the many fossils and interesting geological cross-sections found here.

The fate of the quarry, and Brigham Farm, changed drastically in early August of 1939 when Charles Brigham, Sr. leased the quarry to a contractor who was to supply crushed rock for Dane County Highways. The contractor decided to blase out an enormous amount of rock all at once, and he called in a local well-driller, Lance Dodge, to help.

Dodge set up his drill at the top of the quarry and proceeded to drill eight holes into the rock. Each drill hole was eight inches wide and thirty feet deep.

Near the bottom of the three holes, the drill bit suddenly dropped another thirty feet. It was fairly common in the driftless or unglaciated part of southwestern Wisconsin for well drills to dip quickly for a few feet, but Lance Dodge was very surprised to see his drill bit drop so far.

Dodge knew there was some sort of cavity deep in the rock, but he had no way of knowing how long or wide it was. He certainly never dreamed that he had drilled through the ceiling of such a natural wonder as Cave of the Mounds.

Dodge didn't want to waste the three "bottomless holes" so he created artificial bottoms for them by plugging them with blocks of wood. Into each of the eight holes he then tamped 1600 pounds of black powder. When Lance Dodge plunged the blasting machine and set off the explosives, over 5000 tons of limestone flew into the air.

As the dust and smoke cleared, the workers saw two gaping holes in the quarry face. The blast ripped out the ceiling and west wall of the cave for about forty feet at what is now the entrance.

The first people to climb over the fallen rock and into Cave of the Mounds were Charles Bingham Jr., son of the landowner, Lance Dodge, Wayne Lampman, and Stacy Collins.

Their eyes were the first to see the spectacular beauty of a cave that is now visited by thousands each year.

Adapted from Alonzo W. Pond's "Illustrated Guide Book"
The marker is located at Cave of the Mounds and is accessible from westbound Cave of the Mounds Road, between Rooney Road (to the west) and County Highway ID (to the east), at or near
The marker is on the wall inside the Cave of the Mounds Visitor Center.

The entrance to the Cave of the Mounds Visitor Center.

The Cave of the Mounds Visitor Center is to the left;
the Brigham Farm visible in the background.

 This path (adjacent to the parking lot) leads to the
Cave of the Mounds Visitor Center.

Cave of the Mounds is located in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin.

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