One day, a hundred plus years ago, Mr. Lehman (pronounced LEE-man) was hunting for a cow that had wandered off from his herd. He had been searching for a long time for this cow and he was getting very hungry. So he found a nice spot for him and his horse to stop so he could eat his lunch. He had packed a big roast beef sandwich for lunch – some might think that the cow actually ran away instead of “wandering off”, so as to not become Mr. Lehman’s next roast beef sandwich. After he sat down, Mr. Lehman pulled his roast beef sandwich out of his pack and set it on the rock next to him. He then pulled his canteen out of his pack. Mr. Lehman looked back over to find his sandwich scurrying away! A Pack Rat had stolen his lunch! Now, Mr. Lehman wasn’t about to let a rodent eat his lunch so he chased the Pack Rat for a few miles. Then all of a sudden it disappeared! Mr. Lehman ran up to the spot where he last saw the sandwich and promptly fell in a hole! And that is how Mr. Lehman found the entrance to the cave which he promptly named Lehman Cave. And his lost cow lived happily ever after.
This is just one of the many stories Mr. Lehman told about how he found the natural entrance to the cave that now bears his name. This rendition was told by the Park Ranger leading the tour I took of Lehman Cave, and I recounted here it as best I could. Mr. Lehman was the first white man to see the cave. The Native American’s who first discovered the cave did not leave a record about when they first found it.
There are two tour options for Lehman Cave, both of which are led by Park Rangers. The options are the 60 minute Lodge Room Tour and the 90 minute Grand Palace Tour. The Grand Palace Tour is actually just an extended version of the Lodge Room Tour, so if you do it you’ve also seen everything featured on the Lodge Room Tour.
So far, Lehman Cave’s bats have been able to avoid contracting the deadly White Nose Syndrome that has been killing off the bats along the East Coast and in the Midwest. Us humans, are the main spreaders of the disease, so it is very important that you do not wear clothing, shoes, jackets, hats, phones, etc in multiple caves without first sanitizing those items. If you can’t avoid wearing the same clothing, shoes etc, then tell a Park Ranger that you have been in another cave so they can get you to that park’s cleaning station (varies according to each park) prior to your tour.
I wanted the full experience so I took the Grand Palace Tour. The first five minutes of the tour is given in complete silence. The cave passage upon entering the man made entrance to Lehman Cave passes below the natural entrance of the cave which the local Native Americans hold sacred. Many indigenous people were laid to rest near or in the natural entrance to the cave. Visitors are asked not to speak while in this passageway so as to show respect for the dead.
Lehman Cave is known for some unique features such as shields. Shields are two rounded flat rock formations stuck together in the middle. It reminds me of an Oreo. There is also a formation called draperies that look like….well, draperies. I failed to get good pictures of either of these formations, but they are very interesting to look at.
The Grand Palace Tour is one of my favorite cave tours so far. The group size was small. The Park Ranger was very knowledge and I learned a lot about the things that live in caves (and I managed not to have nightmares about them later!).
One thing that I have found consistent through all the cave tours that I have been on, at some point the Park Ranger will turn off the lights so we can experience total darkness. It is one of my favorite parts of the cave tour. There’s nothing quite like it.
I highly recommend taking a cave tour when visiting Great Basin National Park.