Moqui Cave


Useful Information

Location: 9.5km north of Kanab on road 89.
(37.120778, -112.563802)
Open: All year Mon-Sat 10-18.
[2020]
Fee: Adults USD 7.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyErosional Cave
Light: electric
Dimension:
Guided tours: n/a
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:
Address: Moqui Cave, 4518 North Highway 89, Kanab, UT 84741, Tel: +1-435-644-8525. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1920 used as a speakeasy.
1951 purchased by Garth and Laura Chamberlain.
1952 opened as a bar and dancehall.

Description

Moqui Cave is a natural cave in white sandstone rock caused by erosion. There are actually several huge caverns in this area, but this one was used by the Anasazi people to store food. In the 1920s, during the American prohibition, it was used as a speakeasy. In 1951 it was purchased by Garth and Laura Chamberlain and transformed into a dancehall and bar. Garth Chamberlain was a standout football player and he studied archaeology, paleontology, and geology at Brigham Young University. He used the cave to display his collection of fossils, artifacts, and minerals. It soon transformed into a sort of weird museum with bar and shop.

The exhibitions includes Native American artifacts found in southern Utah and the surrounding areas. As far as we know there was never an archaeological excavation at the cave and it was completely altered before it became a museum. So the statement that it was once used as a food store is mostly wishful thinking, but as most caves in the area contain some ruins, its quite probable. There is a huge fossil exhibition with a collection of 180 dinosaur tracks. Most of those tracks were found in the surroundings of the cave, so they represent the local geology and are of Jurassic age. The fossil collection was classified by the paleontologist Jim Jenson. And there is one of the largest collections of fluorescent minerals in the United States. Those minerals start to glow in different colours when put under an ultraviolet light.

Today it looks like an Anasazi castle built into a cave, but that's actually fake. If you look at some postcards from the 1950s you can see that there were no Anasazi ruins at all, the entrance was a huge dinosaur made of concrete. It resembled more or less a triceratops, probably a theme which was selected because of the fossil collection, or just a Fred Flinstone reference. And the dinosaurs are still there, beneath the entrance is a reconstruction of a stegosaurus which looks quite realistic. And while the entrance-saurus is gone for good, there are many items which were created by Garth Chamberlain since the 1950s still there: the original wooden bar, the concrete teepee which is the entrance to the mineral collection, and the art he created. The cave is still managed by the Chamberlain family. Garth and Laura Chamberlain did the collecting of the exhibitions. Lex and Lee Anne Chamberlain, their son and his wife continued the work after Garth died in 1988. They modernized many parts of the venue. Since Lex died in 2016 Lee Anne Chamberlain manages the cave.

The cave is located at the level of the valley floor. As the white sandstone, which is covered by a reddish sandstone layer, is rather soft it is subject to erosion. The official story is that the cave was formed by the river erosion and is rather old, at least 10,000 years when the last cold age ended and there was much more rainfall and melting water creating many of the erosional forms we see today. There is little information about the history of the cave and it is likely the cave was extended when the speakeasy was established. It may have been extended again in the 1950s for the bar.