Exploring Horse Thief Cave

Tucked away in Wapello County, outside of Ottumwa, there's a small dirt path that winds through the woods and a stream runs nearby.

At the end of the path there's a cave called Horse Thief Cave. It's empty now but stories tell of the time when it was a criminal hideout in the 1800s.

"Rumor has it that this cave, when it had more of a top on it, Jesse James would come up through here from Missouri and he could hide as many as fifty stolen horses in this cave," said Wapello County Supervisor Jerry Parker.

Many residents don't know about the cave.

"The disappointing thing is that most Ottumwans have not been here. It takes a good walk to get here," Parker said.

Some visitors, however, have made their way to the hidden cave. Carvings on the wall from as far back as 1892 prove the existence of visitors to the cave for over 100 years.

"I think everyone should come out. It's something that's a little bit difficult to get to, it's challenging, but about everybody can get to it if they take their time. So it's something that I think every family should see, especially with the rumors of the historical significance," Parker said.

To explore the cave, folks can head out of Ottumwa on Cliffland Road until there's a gravel parking lot.

The dirt path to Horse Thief Cave starts at the edge of the gravel. The land is owned and cared for by the county.