Fountain Cave's entrance was buried by the construction of nearby Shepard Road in the 1960s. In that process the ravine that led to the cave was filled burying the entrance leaving it niether evident nor accessible. A historical sign marks the approximate location on the path above the cave.
Long known to the local Dakota as IN-YAN TI-PI, Fountain Cave was the first building site for what was to become the city of St. Paul. Pierre (Pig's Eye) Parrant, a person of dubious reputation that sold alchol to both Native Americans and to soldiers from the nearby Fort Snelling, built a cabin at the mouth of the cave in 1838, but was evicted two years later by the military authorities at Fort Snelling.
After Pig's Eye's departure, the cave was used as a storehouse and then as a tourist attraction from 1850-1880 when tourists would marvel at its chambers and the pure stream that issued from the mouth of the cave. St. Paul residents visited the cave for its cool air and cooler water on hot summer days. As the cave's popularity increased a pavilion was opened nearby in 1852, which offered refreshments and lights for exploring the cave. Fountain Cave was even featured in the Tourists' Guide to the Health and Pleasure Resorts of the Golden Northwest.
There were many human activities that led to the deterioration of Fountain Cave. In the late 1800's, sewage and storm water were discharged through the cave by a railroad facility, reducing the cave's value as a tourist attraction. Nearby residential development altered the area's hydrology by filling the wetlands and slowing the flow of Fountain Creek into the cave. Finally, in 1960, the cave's entrance was buried during the construction of Shepard Road.
Fountain Cave was estimated to have been 1,150 feet in length, and was possibly Minnesota's longest natural sandstone cave carved by its stream. Inside the cave, a 150-foot-long winding hall led to a beautiful circular room about 50 feet in diameter.
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Last updated: February 28, 2020