The Indian Caves of Inwood Hill Park | My Inwood

By Cole Thompson


Model of the Inwood Hill caves by William Orchard, once on display at the Museum of the American Indian.

On the northern tip of Manhattan, a twenty-minute walk from the subway, is an historical site so rare and unexpected that it warrants a detour on any tourist’s itinerary.

The majestic “Indian caves” of Inwood Hill Park were once used as a seasonal camp by the Lenape people who lived in the region before the arrival of explorer Henry Hudson in 1609.

The caves, created by the tumbling of rocks during a glacial retreat more than 30,000 years ago, are a picturesque reminder of the Native people who once lived on Manhattan Isle.

The modern history of the caves began in 1890 when Alexander Crawford Chenoweth came across a curious rock formation not far from his uptown home.

Chenoweth was a respected engineer who designed the Croton Aqueduct and the base for the Statue of Liberty, but on weekends he assumed the role of amateur archeologist.

Over the course of several days, ten years before the turn of the Twentieth Century, Chenoweth carefully explored the curious rock formations he had come across just off a trail in an area of Inwood Hill known as “the Clove.”

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