It took Lester Howe and Henry Wetsel almost a year to explore the caverns' mile and a half of underground passageways by the light of a whale oil lantern. In February of 1843, Howe offered his neighbor $100 for the property, and he opened Howe's Cave--the third commercial cave in America--for torch-lit tours. The tours cost 50 cents... and lasted eight to 10 hours.
Today, tours cost quite a bit more than 50 cents, but visitors can see Howe Caverns in just about an hour and a half without donning hip waders. Regular tours are offered seven days a week year-round.
After a period of ownership changes, decline and closure, the Howe's Cave property was purchased by investors in 1927, and in 1929, it re-opened as Howe Caverns following construction of an elevator and installation of walkways and electric lighting. Since the cave was made accessible to visitors (although it is not handicapped-accessible), visitation has grown. Today, Howe Caverns is the second most-visited natural attraction in New York State after Niagara Falls. In April of 2007, Howe Caverns was purchased for $3.7 million by two former shareholders, who announced intentions to invest $2 million in the attraction. Plans include opening an additional 1,800 feet of undeveloped cave, including some areas that haven't been seen for more than a century. A new attraction, Howe Dinosaur Canyon, is also planned for the site: It will feature animatronic dinosaurs including a huge Tyrannosaurus Rex.
In 2011, Howe Caverns introduced several new attractions including an animatronic Lester Howe, who regales visitors with the story of his wondrous discovery, and Howe High Adventure, an outdoor ropes and zip line course. In 2012, this adventure park was expanded with the addition of a rock climbing wall and air jumper. Howe Caverns also introduced a Gem and Mining Building where visitors can search for gems, fossils and arrowheads. On June 8, 2013, New York State's first and the Northeast's longest H2OGO balls wet and wild ride debuts.