C. H. Deutschmann, prospector
and hunter is credited with having discovered
the Nakimu Caves in 1904. As he explored the
Cougar Brook Valley, he noticed the brook disappeared
into the ground at the bottom of a falls. Exploring
the caves with only a tallow candle to light
his way, Deutschmann knew this was an attraction
sure to please the adventurous tourists at Glacier
House, and immediately registered his find as
a mineral claim in Revelstoke.
A shrewd businessman, he sold
his claim to the Federal government for $5,000,
and was appointed guide and custodian of the
caves. He constructed wooden walkways and staircases,
even a floating bridge, to facilitate the tourist
traffic. In the cavern known as the Subway
Passage, he blasted a trench of 110 metres
in length to enable his guests to walk rather
than crawl its length. In 1909, more than 1,000
people visited the caves, but with the closing
of Glacier House those numbers declined. Only
a few people were interested in cave exploration
when the park closed Nakimu to the public in
One of the largest cave systems
in Canada, 5.9 kilometres of passages have been
explored and mapped to date - far more than
Deutschmann knew - and the caves are still growing.
The Nakimu caves have formed in a limestone
mountain that is almost 95% calcium carbonate
(the lime in limestone), and consequently
the rock is far more subject to the erosional
properties of rain and snow meltwater. The sound
of thundering water is never far away. Deutschmann
named the caves Nakimu - a Shuswap word
meaning grumbling spirits. The rushing
water also makes the caves exceptionally dangerous,
flooding previously dry chambers and dislodging
large chunks of rock.
One of the most fascinating
features of Nakimu is something called moonmilk
which has the appearance of cauliflower heads
and the consistency of cottage cheese. Thought
to be caused by calcium carbonate crystals growing
on bacteria on the cave walls, it is extremely
fragile. Unfortunately, visitors failing to
resist the temptation to touch this rare display
have left scars dating back to the early 1900's.
It is a three-hour hike with
an elevation gain of 800 metres to reach the
cave entrance, and public access is limited.
The Cougar Brook valley is Grizzly bear country.
The trail here may be closed at any time if
bear activity is threatened.