No location is too dangerous, no terrain too rough, for cave explorer Gene Lorance.  With hands-on- approach, he travels the State of California, seeking answers to some of the most enigmatic mysteries of the Hawver Cave.  Digging for the truth shares Gene’s personal stories, journals, photographs and insights, revealing the risks and dangers of what went on behind the scenes from the public eyes.    

In November 2006, California State Parks, AMLU, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Teichert Aggregates helped to install bat-compatible gates at the historic Hawver Cave/Mountain Quarries Mine in the Auburn State Recreation Area. 

Hawver cave was originally discovered by a few high school students that were exploring the cave back in 1906.  One of the students at that time found a bone and took it to a man named Dr. John Hawver.  He was the local dentist in Auburn California and was a paleontologist who had connections to UC. Berkeley.  Many ice-age animals remains were discovered and documented in the cave.  In 1910 the Mountain Quarries Mine decided to mine right through the original entrance of the cave.  The mining of limestone took place and over the years had many other mine names that were applied.  When operating, it was the largest limestone mine in Northern California. 

After work ceased in 1942, most of the equipment was removed from the site, and the main entrance was blocked with fallen rock. In subsequent years, however, people dug their way back into the abandoned Hawver Cave/mine.

Park rangers frequently responded to partygoers, vandalism, and occasional injuries until recently, when State Parks project manager Gene Lorance called the AMLU and its partners to close several known entrances to the Hawver Cave/mine. 

Hawver Cave's mysteries are being unlocked.  Gene Lorance, who works for California State Park as the Hawver cave project manager, has been overseeing a project for the past 6 years that is shedding renewed light on a cave that yielded a treasure trove of prehistoric fossils from 1906 through 1909 but has been out of the public eye since then.

Lorance's research has taken him into the cave itself and hoping that future paleontologists are able to conduct new excavating work. His work has also put him in contact with relatives of Auburn dentist-paleontologist J.C. Hawver, who did the excavation of the cave in December of 1906. That gave him access to Hawver's personal journals from that time.



Lorance has traveled to the University of California, Berkeley, where he has photographed much of the school's collection of more than 400 bones taken from the cave. The list of animals includes extinct saber toothed cat, ancient cousins of the armadillo and ground sloths as well as shrub-ox, mountain lions and other species. Four human skeletons were also taken from the cave and determined to be around 10,000 years old.


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