Moqui Cave, a combination museum and gift shop, located about 5 miles north of Kanab, UT, along US-89, lays claim as the oldest tavern in Southern Utah.
Indeed, the cave has a tavern, albeit no longer functioning, yet the actual bar and barstools are still there. But back in the day, actors and camera crews finishing up a day of shooting westerns in the red rock canyons and valleys of Kane County would come to Moqui Cave to escape the Summer’s heat and enjoy a cold brew.
The cave’s recent history goes back to 1951 when Garth Chamberlain, a former professional football player with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1945-46), returned to his hometown of Kanab and bought the cave. At the time, the cave walls were tarnished with black soot from explorers and campers lighting campfires. He cleaned it up by layering cement and white paint.
Chamberlain’s original idea was to create a dance hall with live music. The 200 foot deep north wing of the cave possessed superior acoustics. Because the floor of the cave was not level, he had to bring in truck loads of dirt to make it level, then pour cement to make it firm.
The idea to add a tavern came when actors and film crews flocked to Moqui Cave seeking cold beer from the Summer’s heat. The unique red rock canyons and valleys in the area were popular with movie directors shooting westerns, eventually giving Kanab the nickname, “Little Hollywood”. Chamberlain, who had already mastered the skills of carpentry and wood carving, built the bar and barstools himself.
After several years of working long nights, Chamberlain decided to shut down the dance hall and tavern, and turn it into the museum and gift shop that it is today.
Otherwise, Moqui Cave is still in the hands of Chamberlain’s descendants, and continue to staff the business. It’s still decorated with many of Garth’s original carvings and paintings. There’s a impressive mineral collection, including a very large luminous rock collection, along with fossilized dinosaur tracks. You can also find dozens of photographs and letters personally signed by movie actors.
Moqui Cave also contains a large display of Native American artifacts such as ceremonial pots, jugs, bowls and working tools from Anasazi and Navajo Indians. There’s also a sizeable collection of pre-Columbian artifacts from Mexico and more than 1,000 arrowheads.
A visit to Moqui Cave is enough to burn off an hour or two for a couple or family. If you’re interested in Kanab’s history in the movie and television industry, be sure to check out Little Hollywood Museum, also in Kanab.
4581 US-89, Kanab, UT 84741
Admission is $5.00 per adult.
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