Guhn was a grad student. In a way, she was looking for a PhD in the Idaho dirt. Wilson Butte is the lava blister she and others worked in that summer and again in 1988 and 1989. The butte was formed on an otherwise fairly flat lava field by gases that formed a big bubble during an eruption. Part of that bubble collapsed at some point, establishing an entrance to the dome now called Wilson Butte Cave. The cave had been discovered that year by Idaho State University field geologists.
Guhn and her crew meticulously dug, one layer at a time, and recorded what they discovered there. In the lowest layer they found the bones of a couple of camels and an ancient horse. More importantly they found signs of human habitation, including arrow shafts, pottery shards, arrowheads, and a moccasin. Gruhn says the site was occupied by humans 14,000 to 15,000 years ago.
You can climb up on top of Wilson Butte and get a great view of the surrounding country. Archeologists speculate that’s exactly what early people did, looking for bison. Once they had killed one or two, they would bring them back to the cave to process. It would have made a great shelter from the elements.
The dig at Wilson Butte Cave established one of the earliest instances of human presence on the continent. There’s a good chance that people who lived there were present for that interesting little natural phenomenon we call the Bonneville Flood. Imagine what it might have been like to see and hear that go by.
Wilson Butte Cave is accessible. It’s managed by the BLM, so get access information from the Shoshone Field Office or the Twin Falls District Office. Here’s a link to a great little BLM publication about the cave written for kids.