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After Spearfish photographer Josef Fassbender created this photo he labeled it 'Baker's Falls.' People in Spearfish today don't recognize the name, and are trying to figure out where the photo might have been taken.
After Spearfish photographer Josef Fassbender created this photo he labeled it "Baker's Falls." People in Spearfish today don't recognize the name, and are trying to figure out where the photo might have been taken.

The Mysterious Baker’s Falls

Jan 28, 2015

It all started with a simple question: “Where is Baker’s Falls?”

It came via our Facebook page from a reader whose curiosity was piqued by our Jan/Feb issue’s cover shot from the Fassbender Photographic Collection. A young man is shown crouched behind a frozen waterfall. The only details are those written on the photograph: “Baker’s Falls, Spearfish Canyon, Black Hills, S.D.”

We called Paul Higbee, our West River correspondent. He’s lived in Spearfish for several years and knows that area better than anyone in the office. After a little investigation, Paul told us he thought the spot was likely a place known today simply as the Ice Caves. He said you could find them high in the rim rock just above Bridal Veil Falls on the left side of the road as you’re driving up Spearfish Canyon.

Case closed. Or so we thought.

Paul called again today to report that our cover shot is generating a lot of talk around Spearfish, and that many of the locals who mention the photograph believe it actually shows the Community Caves during a year in which more water was flowing around the formation. No one seems to know where the name “Baker’s Falls” came from, or even recalls any Bakers from that time and place.

One reader who talked to Paul even remembered a different photo of a frozen-over Community Caves that appeared in South Dakota Magazine a decade or more ago that he says looks strikingly similar to our current cover photo. They are tracking down that lead right now, but in the meantime we thought we’d open it up to our online readers and see if anyone can shed any light on the mystery?


05:49 pm - Thu, January 29 2015
Elizabeth Pease said:
Has anyone Googled 'Baker's Falls'?
06:23 am - Fri, January 30 2015
John Andrews said:
I did Google Baker's Falls when we were putting together the magazine story. I couldn't find much relevant information.
08:28 pm - Wed, April 1 2015
Karen Bucholz said:
Howdy. Sure looks like Community Cave to me. Been there many of times, all seasons. Originally the cave was named Wildcat Cave. Some old timers and ice climbers still call it that. The huge ice column in front of the man is most likely the main waterfall that freezes every winter. When I was younger I hiked up to it with ice cleats on and put my ear next to the frozen waterfall and could hear the water flowing on the inside! Cool place. I have been exploring the entire Black Hills and the surrounding areas my entire life and I feel that Community Cave is one the coolest places in the Black Hills. Have fun exploring! Karen AKA KareBear
07:19 pm - Tue, July 24 2018
Cin said:
It could be community caves in spearfish canyon. But The Ice cave is a very long way from there. If you snowmobile you have been to ice caves.
01:24 pm - Fri, January 17 2020
Patty Fay said:
Baker's Falls is named after Joe Baker who prospected there and later to over the Overland House in Spearfish in the 1890's. His wife Barbara Hoffman is my 1st cousin 5 x removed.
08:01 am - Sun, February 16 2020
Bruce said:
This is not Community/Wildcat cave. It is what locals refer to as Swallow Cliffs. It is located a few hundred yards south of Bridal Veil Falls in same side of the canyon. It’s a popular ice climbing area.
01:31 pm - Thu, August 18 2022
Jeff Boice said:
Patty was close. It was actually Frank W. Baker (husband of Barbara Hoffmann) that prospected there briefly in the 1880's or 1890's. They are both buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Spearfish. Bruce is correct as to the location. Former local historian Linfred Shuttler told us the story during a family reunion.

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