Chute's Cave and Tunnel

Looking down Chute's Tunnel from Chute's Cave.

As with Schiek's Cave, the origin of this urban cavity is shrouded in mystery and debate. According to tour promotors of the late 19th century, Chute's Cave was a natural wonder well worth the 10-cent boat tour. A local crank convinced newspaper readers that Chute's or "Nesmith's" Cave ran for miles beneath the river and featured tombs of dragons and pygmies, as well as treasure from ancient civilizations.

S.H. Chute was a local milling developer who in the 1860s was attempting to bring waterpower to St. Anthony, on the East Bank of the Mississippi. Later mills would use the headrace tunnel constructed by Pillsbury and a system of short tailraces to bring in hydropower, but in Chute's time these methods were not available. The reason that Chute's tunnel was so much longer than the Pilsbury tailraces is that it pre-dated limestone quarrying in the area, which allowed Pillsbury and the NSP tailraces to take a considerable shortcut to the surface. The generally accepted story is that while excavating his tailrace, Chute ran into a natural cavern and abandoned the tunnel project. However, the maps and diagrams of area tunnel systems do not support this claim, most showing Chute's tunnel continuing as far as the Phoenix Mill. In fact, when visiting the area it is found that the Phoenix tailrace and the Chute tunnel line up almost exactly, and would appear to have been a single passage prior to the shortcut taken by Pilsbury's tunnels (which cut through and seal off Chute's tunnel). Also, the cave itself has been dated to about the same age as the tunnel by researchers, leading one to believe that it was either created or considerably enlarged by the tunnel construction workers.

After the reported failure of the Chute tunnel, a nearby mineral spring business brought tourists into the cave via boat, up the Chute tunnel from the river. Later, this river-level entrance was submerged by construction of the lower St. Anthony lock and dam, which raised water levels in the area. After falling into disuse, the cave partially collapsed in , taking some of St. Anthony main street with it. Repair work involved filling in more of the cave with rubble and re-paving the street, and propping up the rest of the cavity with wooden beams.

A sewer drop pipe from the surface, likely one of the mills on St. Anthony Main. This tunnel appears to pre-date Chute's tunnel, as it is bisected at a higher level and collapsed where it would reach the river bank.

The section of cave immediately adjacent to the 1880s tairace tunnel is supported with concrete partitions.
Accessing different sections of the cave require crawling around the collapsed rubble pile in the center.

The cave itself is rather small, the main features being rotting wood pillars which used to hold up the street, and abandoned rafts from former visitors attempts on the Chute Tunnel.
The Chute tunnel (or at least the southeast leg of it) is almost impassible due to thick mud.

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