Utah’s Timpanogos Cave & the National Monument’s Centennial Year (1922-2022)

Date: September 8, 2022 (Season 5, Episode 2: 58 minutes long). Click here to see the BuzzSprout webpage for this episode. Caption for the above photograph: early explorers peering out from within a cave formation in American Fork Canyon’s Timpanogos Cave. Courtesy of the Timpanogos Cave National Monument (NPS). Are you interested in other episodes of Speak Your Piece? Click here.

Next month on October 14, 2022 Utah’s Timpanogos Cave–which actually includes three linked caves-–will celebrate its 100th anniversary as a protected national monument. It was in 1922 that US President Warren G. Harding signed Proclamation No. 15040, under the authority of the American Antiquities Act of 1906, to protect the caves for their “unusual scientific interest and importance.” Before the monument closes this season on October 16 (trail to close Oct. 30th and everything reopens in May 2023), we urge you to visit Timp Cave, and join in monument’s centennial celebrations. 

Podcast Content:

Ranger Cami McKinney (program manager over stewardship & interpretation at the Timpanogos Cave National Monument, NPS) is Utah’s leading historian concerning the American Fork Canyon monument. She is the author of Heart of the Mountain – Timpanogos Cave National Monument (U.S. National Park Service). A digital version of this history can be found here.

McKinney started to work at the caves in 1997, and has loved digging into its history ever since. This episode includes the caves’ natural history, its human history–within and surrounding the caves–and finally its speleology. Ranger McKinney wants all of us to learn this word, which is a composite science, involving a cave’s geology, hydrology, biology, cave morphology and its changing microclimate. 

Speleology is also all about the stalagmites, helictites, speleothems and anthodites – all the stunning formations created by millions of years of permeating water and minerals. Recently the Monument has offered different kinds of tours including lantern tours (with the artificial lights turned off) early each morning. To learn more, look for “Centennial Lantern Tours” on the main page. 

Bio: Ranger Cami McKinney, is the Program Manager for Resource Stewardship and Interpretation at Timpanogos Cave National Monument. She had been a National Park Service ranger for 25 years. During this journey she also received her Masters Degree in Natural Resources at Utah State University (Logan, Utah). McKinney began working at Timpanogos Cave National Monument in 1997, and has loved digging into the history of the cave and its canyon ever since. She is the author of Heart of the Mountain, a history of Timpanogos Cave.

Topics Discussed in this Engaging SYP Episode Include:

Tree ladders to Hansen Cave (which is now part of Timp Cave), American Fork Canyon, ca. 1920. Courtesy of the Timpanogos Cave National Monument (NPS).
  • The history of timber harvesting, lumber mills, mining claims, mining towns, even the railroad up American Fork Canyon (ca. 1870s). 
  • The 1887 to 1921 discoveries and rediscoveries of the caves. 
  • The history of the National Forest Service, and later in the National Park Service, and their work in designating and protecting (It was a threatening mining claim which was a catalyst for local and national calls for federal protection). 
  • The Native American history surrounding Timpanogos Peak and Cave. 
  • The history of the geological, thermal, and other physical forces which created the underground spaces.
  • The early 20th century hiking clubs, including both the men and women, who were instrumental in the cave’s discovery and protection. 
  • The early local (Timpanogos Outdoor Committee) and federal partnership which built the trails, set up electrical lighting and more, for the cave.
  • The legends and stories about Timpanogos Mountain and the caves.  
  • The multi-generational, Utah families and individuals, who have served to protect, guide and interpret within the caves for one hundred years.  

NPS Ranger Cami Pulham McKinney’s book Heart of the Mountain – Timpanogos Cave National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) is available in hardcopy—which includes the unabridged book with all the amazing historical images—at the Timp Cave bookstore. An abridged version is available online here.

Do you have a question or comment, or a proposed guest for “Speak Your Piece?” Write us at “ask a historian” – askahistorian@utah.gov