The cave was discovered early on during the Gold Rush, and when Yosemite Valley was discovered shortly after, one of the first access roads passed only a few yards from the grotto. It quickly grew popular as a cool rest stop during the long stage ride to Yosemite. John Muir paid a visit, and wrote admiringly of the cave:
Before noon we passed Bower Cave, a delightful marble palace, not dark and dripping, but filled with sunshine, which pours into it through its wide-open mouth facing the south. It has a fine, deep, clear little lake with mossy banks embowered with broad-leaved maples, all under ground, wholly unlike anything I have seen in the cave line even in Kentucky, where a large part of the State is honeycombed with caves. This curious specimen of subterranean scenery is located on a belt of marble that is said to extend from the north end of the Range to the extreme south. Many other caves occur on the belt, but none like this, as far as I have learned, combining as it does sunny outdoor brightness and vegetation with the crystalline beauty of the underworld.For a time a small hotel was operated nearby. The owners discovered the acoustics of the cave were excellent, so they constructed a bandstand and dance floor in the grotto. A windlass provided access at first, but a wood stairway was soon built. The party times continued into the 20th century. The property changed hands a number of times, eventually ending up in the Art Linkletter family (bonus points if you are old enough to remember him!). Someone was killed in a fall in the 1950s, so access to the cave ended over liability concerns.
|Part of the bandstand still clings to the walls|
In any case, the story states that
A long time ago Too'-le the Evening Star lived at Oo'-tin [Bower Cave, on the Coulterville road to Yosemite]. He-le'-jah the Mountain Lion lived with him. They were chiefs and partners and had a room on the north side of the cave. There were other people here also To-lo'-mah the Wild Cat, Yu'-wel the Gray Fox, Kah'-kool the Raven, and many more.The story continues with a legend of how the Raven and the early people learned to hunt deer. Some of the sources refer to the hole as a passageway by which humans entered the world.
http://www.karstportal.org/FileStorage/Caves_and_Karst/1969-v011-n003.pdf Detailed study of the cave, part 1
http://www.karstportal.org/FileStorage/Caves_and_Karst/1969-v011-n004.pdf Part 2, the vegetation
http://www.karstportal.org/FileStorage/Caves_and_Karst/1969-v011-n005.pdf Part 3, the animals of the cave