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MINNETONKA MODERNIZES AFTER ADVENTUROUS HISTORY

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Minnetonka was discovered in 1906 or 1907 by Edward Arnell of St. Charles, Idaho. He was building a sawmill in the area and felt a draft from a small a hole near a cliff while hunting sage grouse to feed his workers. He returned the next day with seven men and they scaled down a cliff to find the cave. The men found one bear skeleton in the cave, but no indication of any previous human visitors.

In 1913, some visiting Scouts found some porcupine bones in the cave and perhaps also saw a live porcupine in the area. So, they named it Porcupine Cave.It's not known exactly when the name changed to Minnetonka, but Roy Welker, old-time pioneer, is generally given credit for the Indian title that means falling waters.

Minnetonka Cave had few visitors until the early 1930s, when it became a popular Boy Scout and father-and-sons adventure. Early vandalism destroyed some of the cave's best interior shapes.

A government work project in 1936 used $17,000 and many men to enlarge the main opening, add stairs and improve deeper access to the cave.

The cave was first advertised as being open to the public in 1938. It closed during world War II, after which local Lions Club members acted as guides until 1964, when the Forest Service took over operations. Electric lights were added in the 1960s.

A steep hike - similar to the Timpanogos Cave hike - was originally required to reach the cave entrance. But today's paved road opened in 1972, meaning visitors only had to walk briefly along a boardwalk around the mountain to reach the cave.

In 1991, more electric lights were added to the cave. Then, the long "Stairway to Heaven" stairs were improved with the help of athletes from Bear River High School.

This is the first year the Forest Service has a concessionaire - Transtrum Enterprises - operating the cave. There aren't many facilities there now - chemical toilets, pop and candy machines are about it.

But the Forest Service hopes to someday have a well drilled near the cave entrance to supply drinking water and create regular rest rooms. A parking lot that will handle more than 30 cars is also in the master plan for the cave.

The Forest Service has decided against opening Minnetonka year-round because one of its five species of bats is endangered and hibernates there in the fall and winter.