Ramble Cave

Useful Information

Location: Central Park, Oak Bridge, New York, NY 10024, United States.
(40.7774, -73.9695)
Open: All year daily 6-1.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyTalus Cave
Light: bring torch
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: S. Parsons (1891): The Cave in Central Park Ramble, The Literary News, 1891, pp 164-165.
(1869): A Description of the New York Central Park, New York City, NY: F.J. Huntington and Co., pp. 116-118.
Address: Central Park Conservancy, 717 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, 10022, Tel: +1-212-310-6600. 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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1850s cave discovered by workers building the park.
1857 Central Park opened.
1873 reopened after being improved and expanded according to Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Greensward Plan.
13-JUL-1904 Samuel L. Dana found near the steps, shot in the chest.
1904 mand found in the cave who had commited suicide.
1904 A baker claims that the artist walked him to the Indian Cave with the intent of robbing him.
1908 suicide with a razor by the unhinged clerk Grove L. Kline.
1929 335 men were arrested for “annoying women in the Park”.
1934 cave closed by a massive wall.


View of the entrance of the cave and stone bridge. From Central Park Album, 1862. Ramble Cave, New York, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Looking out of the Cave, Central Park, N.Y. Ramble Cave, New York, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Inside the cave. Ramble Cave, New York, U.S.A. Public Domain.
The entrance of the cave, Ramble Cave, New York, U.S.A. Public Domain.

Ramble Cave is the only natural cave we know in New York City. The reason is simply that the city was built on top of a flat island consisting of crystalline rock. The hard rock is a very stable basement for skyscrapers, but a poor host for caves. The only caves which can form in this rock are erosional caves and tectonic caves. The Ramble Cave is a tectonic cave, which was created by the movement of huge granite boulders, which form a heap with narrow spaces between the boulders. In other words the cave was created by tectonic forces which moved the rocks into their current position.

The cave is located south of the 79th St. Traverse, in a heavily wooded area, with narrow, winding trails, and dotted with large granite boulders. Central Park’s planners Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux did lay out the Ramble, complete with paths and trees. The construction of the artificial wilderness required a lot of excavations to retrieve the necessary material. During one such excavation, a large deposit of fertile soil was discovered, and was removed with carts for further use. At the bottom the men found a small cave, which was at the same level as the nearby lake and sloped uphill to the north for about 10 m. The discovery was interesting, but it did not fit into the plans of Olmsted and Vaux. To make it look more natural, they set several large rocks on top of the eastern wall and into the hill beside the north exit, creating the impression that they had slid down naturally. The cave was at the level of the cave, but the trails along the lake were elevated, so they had to build a narrow staircase leading from the lake-side path down into the cave. A border of larger stones hides the stairs from view except from above. Park visitors could also enter from a boat on the Lake.

The cave was quite popular in the early days, and it was simply called the cave or Ramble Cave. It was later called Indian Cave, and there were rumours that remains of early Native American inhabitants were found iside the cave. However, neither the remains nor any documentation exists, most likely this was just a story to make the cave more interesting.

But in the early 20th century, the story of the cave changed. On 13-JUL-1904 a man named Samuel L. Dana was found near the steps, shot in the chest. He was unconscious, was brought to the hospital, and recovered. He first refused to tell his name, but the staff in the hospital found his last name written on his underwear. He claimed that he was shot, but did not say who or why. His wife Beatrice Dignan married him because she thought he was rich, although she was already married to a different man. When she found out that he was not rich, she kicked him out and the day after he was found shot. It was supposedly a suicide attempt, and it caused a media frenzy. But both vanished and the stories got cold.

In the same year, another strange story happened at the cave, another suicide, with several strange details. For example, the man shot himself twice, which seems almost impossible. He was well-dressed and wore a derby, a tie and a black suit, which started to burn from the flames of the firing pistol. He carried no identification, but there was a note: "My name is Boy. No relatives in this country.”

And also in the same year, an artist was found guilty of disorderly conduct. A baker had claimed that the artist walked him to the Indian Cave with the intent of robbing him. Again a really weird story, for one, why rob a baker, and then how did he actually force him? And if he robbed him, why was he found guilty of disorderly conduct and not robbery? And if it was not a robbery, why was he found guilty at all?

In February 1908, a policeman heard a cry for help coming from the cave. He found a man with a gash in his throat, and an open razor in his hand. The man said "One of the sparrows told me to do it. I didn’t want to, but I had to obey". This unhinged man was a clerk named Grove L. Kline. The cave was also called Suicide Cave by the locals at this time.

Many people hid in the cave, and men came to the cave to molest women. In 1929, for example, 335 men were arrested for “annoying women in the Park”, an ancient name for sexual harassment. Many of the cases happened at the cave. Another strange story, as the cave is off the main tracks, and the only way to molest women there is if the women do the detour to be molested.

The cave was finally closed with a massive wall on the lower end, the upper entrance was blocked by boulders and dirt. That's sad, it is actually not possible to see the cave, only the two entrances, and one is camouflaged very well. The reason for the closure is unclear, although the great number of incidents is generally thought to be the reason. But actually, the difference to other places in the park wasn't that great, and suicides on the stairs can hardly be blamed on the cave, any more than bridges are torn down when too many suicides jump down.

The cave is today not marked on maps, and there is no entry on Google Maps, there are no signs, and it is tricky to find. It is located at the northern end of The Lake, where the Ramble Arch meets Oak Bridge. At one point, a staircase with narrow steps made from granite rocks leads down to the cave entrance. They are on the west side of the second small bay at the northwest of The Lake. There is a low fence and it is actually necessary to jump this fence, which is obviously not allowed.