Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cooper's Cave, a Literary Landmark in Saratoga County

I scouted out Cooper's Cave the other day and took these shots of this literary landmark. This spot marks a western bend in the Hudson River and the rushing of the waters over the cataracts continues to provide hydroelectric power for local factories. There is a gated viewing platform underneath the Cooper's Cave Bridge, connecting Route 9 between South Glens Falls and Glens Falls which affords a nice view of the rushing water and rock formations that inspired James Fenimore Cooper’s novel "The Last of the Mohicans" when he traveled to this area in 1823 or 1824. Disappointingly, one cannot actually step into the cave Cooper describes as the shelter for his Munro sister heroines, but you can glimpse it from afar.

There is a good article with historical background about Cooper's travels to this area and several photographs of the cave and falls unobstructed by industrial trappings here.

Here's how Cooper describes the limestone cave in the middle of the rushing rapids at Glens Falls that shelters Alice and Cora Munro, Major Heyward, Hawkeye, Uncas and Chingachgook in chapter six of "Last of the Mohicans":

"We are then on an island!"

"Ay! there are the falls on two sides of us, and the river above and below. If you had daylight, it would be worth the trouble to step up on the height of this rock, and look at the perversity of the water. It falls by no rule at all; sometimes it leaps, sometimes it tumbles; there it skips; here it shoots; in one place 'tis white as snow, and in another 'tis green as grass; hereabouts, it pitches into deep hollows, that rumble and crush the 'arth; and thereaways, it ripples and sings like a brook, fashioning whirlpools and gullies in the old stone, as if 'twas no harder than trodden clay. The whole design of the river seems disconcerted. First it runs smoothly, as if meaning to go down the descent as things were ordered; then it angles about and faces the shores; nor are there places wanting where it looks backward, as if unwilling to leave the wilderness, to mingle with the salt. Ay, lady, the fine cobweb-looking cloth you wear at your throat is coarse, and like a fishnet, to little spots I can show you, where the river fabricates all sorts of images, as if having broke loose from order, it would try its hand at everything. And yet what does it amount to! After the water has been suffered so to have its will, for a time, like a headstrong man, it is gathered together by the hand that made it, and a few rods below you may see it all, flowing on steadily toward the sea, as was foreordained from the first foundation of the 'arth!"

Cooper's Cave is open to the public from Memorial Day to Halloween from 9 am to 8 pm. You can easily find signs leading to the road and parking for the site at the southern end of the Cooper's Cave Bridge (Route 9 in between the Village of South Glens Falls and the City of Glens Falls). There are informational signs about the Mohican Indians, Cooper's writings and other historical tidbits and a good glimpse of this scenic view if you can blur out the industrial buildings, fences, spill tubes and machinery. Admission is free.

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