GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - On a sunny day in 1992, a small group of people hiked partway up Iron Mountain in north Glenwood to explore the Fairy Caves. For Steve Beckley, this was the culmination of a decade-long campaign to get permission to visit the long-closed cave. For Jeanne Nelson, it was her second date with Steve and her first time in a cave.
Twenty years later, Steve and Jeanne Beckley have turned the cave into a thriving tourist destination, making their dreams of sharing the pristine underground world with the public a reality.
A new book, "Eighth Wonder: The Story of Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves," offers readers a detailed chronicle of the cave's history.
From its formation millions of years ago by the combination of fresh water from the Colorado River and hot mineral water from underground springs, to its discovery in 1895 by Charles Darrow and its subsequent development, the book includes beautiful images of cave formations, educational illustrations and rare historic photographs that date back to the early 1900s.
A timeline and a collection of then-and-now photos show the evolution of the tourist attraction and demonstrate that while much has changed, the beauty of the caves remains the same.
"What really stood out for me as we compiled the information for this book was the fact that Charles Darrow's vision in 1895 to create a major attraction to bring visitors to Glenwood Springs has come to fruition through the hard work and perseverance of Steve and Jeanne Beckley," said Shiela Kendall, special projects manager for Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
A reproduction of an advertisement from the May 27, 1897, Avalanche Echo, courtesy of the Frontier Historical Society, demonstrates Darrow's efforts to market the Fairy Caves as the Eighth Wonder of the World and was the inspiration for the book's title.
The 1897 ad states, "The Fairy Caves, although in existence with the other Seven Wonders, were undiscovered, and for that reason not included in the list."
The book was a collaboration between Richard Rhinehart, author of two previous books about caves in Colorado and the founding editor of Rocky Mountain Caving magazine; Shiela Kendall, special projects manager at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park; and Mandy Gauldin, the Adventure Park's public relations specialist.
Most the photographs in the book were taken by Norman Thompson, a noted cave photographer. His photos have been displayed in exhibits, including one at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
The book also includes photos by Ken Headrick, who was a volunteer caver with the Fairy Caves Project when it began in 1998 and is currently a tour guide at Glenwood Caverns.
"Eighth Wonder: The Story of Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves" is available for $9.95 at the General Store gift shop at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.