Tucked away in the northeast corner of Washington, Crawford is an out-there adventure that’s well worth the drive.
The 40-acre day-use park is unassuming on the surface, but a tour of Gardner Cave reveals an underworld of deep geologic mystery.
Into the depths
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.
You’ll need a guide to explore the cave. Tours are offered several times daily in summer, and your guide will teach you to recognize the formations, illuminated by electric lighting. Bring flashlights, and geek out shining your beams into dark corners. Flash photography is allowed inside the cave.
The park can schedule special tours for groups and with advance notice. Group size is limited to 25 people. Please call the park at (509) 446-4065 to schedule outside normal tour hours.
A curious history
While geology is front and center at Crawford, the park has a curious history. Gardner Cave was officially discovered by Edward E. Gardner around 1900. Gardner was not only a homesteader, farmer and miner, he eventually kept a saloon and was allegedly a bootlegger during Prohibition. He ended up selling his nearby acreage to businessman William H. Crawford, who also acquired the cave. Local lore says Gardner lost the land in a card game, but that has not been confirmed.
Either way, Crawford's investment was short lived, as he deeded 40 acres containing the cave to Washington State Parks in 1921, after logging the land.
Nab one of 10 first-come, first-served picnic tables. Choose from a table near the U.S.-Canadian border, one at the cave's entrance, or a small shelter. Take the short walk to the border to say that you hiked to Canada.
Warm up in the park or cool down in the cave, but remember to wear layers. This place at the "end of the earth" gets hot in the summer, and temperatures drop to 39 degrees below ground.