Lehman Caves Discovery
Digital Image Copyright 2002, Great Basin Association
Although questionable accounts of earlier dates exist, the most likely date of discovery is 1885, by Absalom S. Lehman. Lehman, originally from Pennsylvania, spent many years mining in the west and in Australia, before settling on Weaver Creek in the South Snake Range to begin ranching in the late 1860s.
Little mention is made of how the caves were discovered, but many legends circulate, including one that establishes Lehman's horse as the true discover. One version claims that while Lehman was riding the horse across the terrian, the horse broke through a crust covering the cave's natural entrance. Yet another version claims that Lehman's brother, Ben, was the real discoverer. When passing a clump of bushes one day, he felt a strong current of wind coming from a hole in the ground. The most likely discovery scenario is that Absalom Lehman or one of his hired hands on the ranch stumbled onto the natural entrance to the cave, perhaps attempted to lower someone down using ropes, and decided further exploration was necessary. However, we will probably never know for certain who was the first person to view the interior of Lehman Caves.
Many accounts agree that the first party of people to enter the cave included most of Snake Valley's early citizens. These include Ab and Ben Lehman, William Burbank, Dan Simonsen, E.W. Clay, Ed Lake, William Atkinson, Isaac Gandy, George Robison, D.A. Gonder, P.M. Baker, and Nettie Baker, who was probably the first white woman to see the cave.
The discovery of the cave was heralded first by the White Pine Reflex, a local newspaper out of Ely, Nevada, on April 15, 1885.
"Ab Lehman (sic) of Snake Valley, reports that he and others have struck a cave of wondrous beauty on his ranch near Jeff Davis Peak. Stalactites of extraordinary size hang from its roof and stalagmites equally large rear their heads from the floor...The cave was explored for about 200 feet when the points of the stalactites and stalagmites came so close together as to offer a bar to further progress. They will again explore the cave armed with sledgehammers and break their way into what appears to be another chamber."
American Indian Evidence
Did You Know?
One of the major ecological threats to the sagebrush-dominated Great Basin ecosystem is the introduction and spread of dozens of species of non-native plants. The most important of these, cheatgrass (or downy brome) covers the largest area: 25 million acres, one-third of the area of the Great Basin.