Crawford State Park feels like it’s at the end of the earth, and its star attraction, Gardner Cave, feels like the center of the earth.
Tucked away in the northeast corner of Washington, near the U.S.-Canada and Washington-Idaho borders, Crawford State Park is an unassuming day-use park – on the surface. But a tour of Gardner Cave reveals an underworld of deep geologic mystery. Gardner Cave is a 500 million-year-old cavern that measures approximately 2,072 feet in length and 295 feet in depth. Its floors, ceilings and walls are rich with stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone and rimstone pools. These features, which your interpretive guide will teach you to recognize, are illuminated by electric lighting. Adults and kids who bring flashlights will have fun shining their beams into dark corners, and flash photography is allowed inside the cave.
Hailed as a “natural wonder” by the 1911 federal land survey that mapped it, Gardner Cave is not only one of Washington’s longest caves, it offers easy access and one of the most intriguing underground landscapes in the western U.S.
Nab one of 10 first-come, first-served picnic tables; choose a sheltered table, a table at the cave’s entrance, or a table on the U.S.-Canada border, among others. Warm up in the park or cool down in the cave, but remember to layer your clothing. This place at the “end of the earth” gets hot in the summer, and temperatures may drop to 39 degrees on your way to the cave’s center.
Crawford State Park Heritage Site is a 40-acre, forested day-use park featuring Gardner Cave, a unique and tour-worthy cavern.
Discover Pass:A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to state parks for day use. For more information about the Discover Pass and exemptions, please visit the Discover Pass web page.
The park provides one picnic shelter without electricity, plus two sheltered and 11 unsheltered picnic tables. A restroom is also provided. All are available first come, first served.
The main activity at Crawford State Park Heritage Site is touring Gardner Cave. With large groups and holidays, extra tours can be given. Park staff limits tour size to 25 people. A call before arrival will help in accommodating large groups. Call Crawford State Park at (509) 446-4065.
Suitable walking shoes or hiking boots are recommended for touring the caves and surrounding area.
The surrounding area has many events and outdoor activities. Contact the Metaline Falls Chamber of Commerce and the National Forest Service. Metaline Falls is located in the Colville National Forest.
Pend Oreille County-settler Edward E. Gardner lends his name to Gardner Cave as its apparent discoverer circa 1900, although there are other discovery claims. Gardner Cave was reportedly found during a hunting foray by the homesteader, farmer, placer miner, future Metaline saloon keeper and alleged bootlegger during Prohibition. Edward Gardner homesteaded adjacent land on the Pend Oreille River, but never owned the cave.
Metaline businessman William H. Crawford operated a general store and acquired ownership of about 160 acres that included Gardner’s Cave in 1920. This was likely an investment opportunity given the local potential for timber, placer and hardrock metals within the Metaline Mining
District. Crawford’s investment was short lived as he deeded 40 acres containing the cave to Washington State Parks in 1921 for public purposes, after logging the land.
A 1911 federal land survey assigned a length of 1,100 feet to what they called Little Mammoth Cave – “a natural wonder of considerable interest.” Gardner Cave is significant as an uncommon limestone cavern in Washington that is accessible to the public.