• A water drop clings onto the edge of a orange stalactite, surrounded by white stalactites.

    Timpanogos Cave

    National Monument Utah

Martin Hansen

Martin Hansen stands at the mouth of the cave he discovered, Hansen Cave. The photo is in black and white, and Hansen is standing on a pile of rocks, just in front of the natural entrance.

Martin Hansen stands at the natural entrance to Hansen Cave, which he discovered in 1887.

NPS

Born in Denmark, Hansen settled in American Fork in 1861 after coming to Utah with Mormon pioneers. He was a teamster and logger in American Fork Canyon, and as the demand for lumber and firewood increased, Hansen had to climb higher up the steep slopes to reach ideal timber. According to family records, Hansen ended his working day in October 1887 high on the canyon wall, setting his ax down against a tree and heading home. The next day he returned to collect his ax and noticed mountain lion tracks in the freshly fallen snow. Taking his ax, he followed the tracks and found the entrance to a cave, exploring only as far as daylight allowed.

He returned to explore several times what is now known as Hansen Cave, along with his children and others. With assistance from family and friends, Hansen built a rudimentary trail nearly straight up the cliff with log "tree ladders", and placed a door over the cave entrance. Hansen gave tours of the cave for a small fee from 1888-1891, ceasing when tours became unprofitable. He and his wife Mary had nine children, and following in the family tradition, son George Heber Hansen and grandson Wayne Hansen together discovered Middle Cave, now part of the Timpanogos Cave System.

 
Black and white portrait of Martin Hansen.
Portrait of Martin Hansen.
NPS

Did You Know?