The cave and the beaver


Emily loved her brother but was sick of dragging him along for all the fun. She planned to leave him home this time as she and her friends explored a cave in the hills of Albany County, but he threatened to tell mom and dad. It was a good thing he went because he ended up saving all their lives.
That brother, Dylan, was not a straight A student but he paid attention to the little things most people missed. It was an observation he made inside the cave later that night that saved them, but before I get to that I should tell you about the beaver. If we’re assigning blame for what happened, the thing that had all the TV crews out in the woods and firefighters scrambling, it was that stupid beaver. Oh, and the farmer with the dynamite; we can’t forget him. Here’s what happened.
The cave was very popular with kids because it was 4,800 feet long and offered everything a cave should. There were bats, spots where you had to crawl and even a place where you had to wade through water. It was also pitch black and always 54 degrees in there.
Emily, Dylan and four others arrived late afternoon at the cave’s entrance. Nobody knew they were going in—mistake number one. None of them had been in this cave before so they were clueless of what to expect—their second mistake. At least they brought flashlights.
As they made their way through the cave, Dylan realized it. The place was bone dry and it shouldn’t have been. He also noticed, about halfway through, there was a spot where the ceiling went very high and there were little ledges. Some previous visitor even placed candles up on top of them. You could tell this was the “hang out spot” for kids who ventured here. Just beyond there, the cave pitched lower and got more dangerous so they decided to turn around and started heading back.
Before I share what happened next, I should tell you about the beaver. A mile above the cave, there was a big stream that carried water down the hill. Some of it made its way to the river but a good amount ran through the cave. The reason the cave was bone dry was because the beaver had built a massive dam blocking off the stream.
Normally a beaver dam was not a big deal but in this case the water was backing up and flooding a nearby field of a farmer. Instead of taking a pick ax to the dam and opening a small hole he decided to use dynamite and blow the whole thing up.
Even though the kids were a half-mile underground, they heard the blast and felt the ground shake. Then they heard something worse—the sound of water rushing toward them. Before they could even react, they had water gushing into the entrance of the cave and rising. Their instincts told them to run toward the water and the cave’s entrance but Dylan noticed the water was rising too fast. He also remembered that many parts of the cave they would have to cross to get back out were lower and would be filled with water by now. They’d end up trapped and drown.
Then he recalled the high part of the cave he had seen earlier and those ledges with candles. He told everyone to stop screaming and follow him back deeper in the cave. At first they were reluctant and arguing but Dylan shouted, “Follow me or we’re all dead.” They made it to the high part of the cave climbed up on the ledges, held each others’ hands and watched the water rise, not knowing if they’d be high enough.
Outside, the farmer saw what he had done and noticed two terrible things—the cave was flooded and there was an SUV he didn’t recognize parked out front. He called police and they brought everyone, including the media, to the front of the cave. The farmer used a bulldozer to push a massive mound of dirt back across the stream which stopped the flow of water.
For the next three hours, everyone watched, waited and worried outside the entrance of the cave as the water slowly receded. Ambulances and EMTs stood by fully expecting to drag dead bodies out of the dark hole. Just when everyone was ready to give up hope, at about 3am, six teenagers walked out of the cave and into the spotlights, wondering what all the fuss was about. Wrapped in warm blankets, they lived to tell the tale of the cave, the beaver and the smart little boy who saved them all.
(The above story is 95% fact, 5% fiction. I’ll let you guess which is which. I know because I was there.)
John Gray is weekly columnist for the Troy Record and the Saratogian newspapers and news anchor at ABC 10 and FOX 23. He can be reached at


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