What better place to throw a hidden party than inside an ancient cave? That’s exactly what soldiers stationed in West Wendover during the 1940s believed, who used the cave to dance, drink, and crank up the tunes during regulated national blackouts in World War II. During the 1940s, West Wendover became an ideal site for a U.S. Air Force training base, which quickly formed a town of 20,000 military personnel and their families. Straddling the Nevada-Utah border on the outskirts of the Bonneville Salt Flats, the area was already extremely remote but was no exception for countrywide blackouts, requiring that all glimmering windows and doors be covered at night with curtains, cardboard or paint that would target enemy aircraft. Better yet, no light would escape from inside a natural rock cave.
Nestled in the foothills surrounding West Wendover just over the Utah border, soldiers rediscovered a handful of caves first used by some of the Great Basin Desert’s first inhabitants. Thousands of American Indian artifacts were discovered, then immediately protected by archaeologists in nearby Danger Cave, while another cave nearby lay empty with a high arching roof and open entrance. Airmen strung up electrical lights in the cave’s ceiling, poured a 16 x 24 foot concrete dance floor, and even hauled a jukebox up the cave’s steep slope entrance as the ultimate secret party spot where they could socialize freely long into the cool desert nights.
Exploring Jukebox Cave Today
Today, Danger and Jukebox Caves are protected by Utah State Parks and while the jukebox is long gone, the poured concrete floor and other evidence of thousands of years of use remains behind locked steel gates. The hike up to the cave entrance is steep and rugged, with less than 200 feet in elevation gain, and though gated still provides a fascinating glimpse into some of the area’s ancient and more modern threads of Great Basin history for the casual explorer. Utah State Parks offers scheduled tours, where you can learn about the vast history of both caves.
The entrance to Jukebox Cave remains behind a locked steel gate, but is large enough to slide a camera lens through the opening. Anyone can make the hike to Jukebox Cave 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For a more immersive experience and entrance inside the cave, be sure to reserve your spot on a pre-scheduled tour with Ron Rood at (801) 243-1306.
Tours of Danger and Jukebox Cave typically begin at 10:00 AM and last 3.5 to 4 hours, and cost $18 for adults, and $12 for children ages 8 to 15. Children under 8 are free, but must be accompanied by an adult. For more info about tours, contact Ron Rood directly at [email protected] or visit the West Wendover Welcome Center.