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Finding Minnesota: 450 Million-Year-Old Bedrock Houses One Of Minnesota's Tallest Waterfalls

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's a place where you can see weddings and waterfalls, 200 feet below the surface. In this week's Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen takes us to scenic Niagara Cave in Fillmore County.

Hundreds of feet below the surface, far away from the summer sun a Fillmore County family is shedding light on what it's like to own a cave.

"It's something I had a passion for my whole life. Opportunity of a lifetime. And it all just kind of fell into place for us," said Mark Bishop.

Bishop bought Niagara Cave in 1995, 70 years after it was discovered not by people, but by pigs. The farmer who leased the land back then noticed his hogs were missing. He found them in a sinkhole.

"Pigs had fallen in. They got ropes and lights to rescue the pigs and they discovered it went into a much larger cave system at that time," Bishop said.

The limestone bedrock is 450 million years old and it's riddled with stalactites, stalagmites, and fossils that are older than dinosaurs. The tour stretches a half mile. There are passageways that go much further but are too narrow for humans.

Caves are unique enough but Niagara has a waterfall.

"Thus named after Niagara Falls in New York," Bishop said. "We have one of the tallest waterfalls in Minnesota that's underground."

It's a 50-foot drop and it's one of the reasons movies have been filmed here; it looks like a scene from out of something like "The Goonies" or "Indiana Jones."

"I've had that mentioned to me before," Bishop said.

Waterfalls are one thing, weddings are another. More than 450 weddings have taken place in the cave. There's a sort of "I do" alumni that frequently comes back.

"The first wedding I believe was in 1935," Bishop said. "People come and visit that got married here 40, 50, 60 years ago. The future is all up from here."

It's a future that's focused on education and awe-inspiring scenery.

"I wish I had more time to take photos because, yeah, it's pretty spectacular," visitor Jessica Kittleson said.

"Down here it's just so clear and nice and cool. It's kind of a nice place to hang out during the summer," visitor Tom Anderson said.

"We like to educate people let them see what's underneath their feet. And just have a great educational experience," Bishop said.

No matter what time of year, it's always 48 degrees in the cave.

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