Caves and Caving
Part 2: Spelunking
By A.R. Royo
In recent years, caving (also called spelunking) has gained increased popularity, especially around colleges and universities because of its physical and mental requirements. Cavers have many different motives for their underground passion. For some, caving is a sport offering physical and mental challenges. Others are drawn underground by the simple love of exploration. Still others enjoy the scientific aspects that may involve mapping and other methods of documentation. Still others find caving an inspirational or spiritual experience.
The National Speological Society (NSS) has been formed by those so drawn to natural caverns in the earth. The society supports cave exploration, research and conservation. Local chapters, called grottos, exist in regions throughout the US. The National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC) is a volunteer group of the NSS developed to coordinate cave rescue resources throughout the US. Most NCRC cavers perform rescues as members of their local rescue squads, civil defense units or cave rescue groups.
Some caves offer easy exploration, while others require tight crawls, challenging climbs or dangerous descents. Caves can be cold, dark and damp. They can also be dusty-dry, muddy or completely filled with water. All are dark and many can be extremely dangerous, especially without proper gear, knowledge and experience.
If you are interested in caving, local grottos can provide invaluable resources. Membership involves NSS membership, which includes newsletters, knowledge of those who have been there before, maps, fellowship and safety.
Serious cavers devote a good deal of time to training and planning. Acquiring approriate climbing gear and practicing how to use it is a preoccupation of local grottos. Mapping, photographic documentation and protection of local caves is also part of their charter.
Experienced cavers have established the following guidelines for caving.
Required Caving Gear
- Three sources of light per person (Make sure batteries are fresh)
- Warm clothing
- Tough gloves
- Tough, waterproof boots
- Knee pads
- Shoulder bag
- Food & water
- Space blanket or garbage bag
- Pocket knife
- Small length of cord or webbing
- Small First Aid Kit
- Small whistle for signaling
- Extra batteries (and bulbs for your main light)
Caving Safety Tips
- Never cave alone!
- Stick together.
- Don't attempt climbing a pit without proper training.
- Don't cave while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Don't jump -- surfaces are hard and distances can be deceiving.
- When crawling through tight spaces, keep your arms in front of you, not at your sides.
- Be wary of going head-first down into tight spots.
- Looking behind you will help you remember the way out.
- Always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
Removing or destroying cave formations and disturbing cave wildlife is illegal.
- Destroy nothing.
- Take nothing.
- Leave nothing behind.
- Don't bother the wildlife. Don't shine your light on bats.
- Don't urinate (or worse!) in a cave.
- Don't touch any formation, especially with bare hands.
- Respect the land around cave entrances. Never damage gates or dump trash.
Desert Spelunking Caves
Below is an incomplete list of caves in desert regions. Most are at least 400 feet deep and/or at least a mile in length. Locations within a state list counties only, since there is great effort to preserve these precious natural resources. The best way to discover precise locations and explore caves safely is to join a local grotto. Check with the NSS for the grotto nearest you.
(Caves listed below are limestone unless otherwise indicated.)>
|Allen Springs Cave||Yavapai Cou|
|Cave of the Bells||Santa Cruz|
|Paiute (Black Abyss) Cave||Coconino|
|Roaring Springs Cave||Coconino|
|Anza-Borrego (Arroyo Tapiado) Mud Caves||San Diego||Gypsum|
|Cat Cave||San Bernardino|
|Thunder Canyon Cave||San Diego||Granite Boulder/Talus|
|Warner Cave||San Bernardino|
|Winding Stair||San Bernardino|
|Breezeway Cave||El Paso|
|Cave of the Winds||El Paso|
|Hurricane Cave||Teller||Granite Boulder/Talus|
|Rat Dome Cave||Garfield|
|Spring Cave||Rio Blanco|
|Twenty Pound Tick Cave||?|
|Carcass Cave||De Baca||Gypsum|
|Dry (Pot) Cave||Eddy|
|Double Barrel Shotgun Cave||?||Gypsum|
|Edgewood Caverns||Santa Fe|
|Fort Stanton Cave||Lincoln|
|Hells Below Cave||Eddy|
|Jansill/Driftwood Cave system||Chaves||Gypsum|
|Martin Cave System||Chaves||Gypsum|
|Slaughter Canyon Cave (New Cave)||Eddy|
|Three Fingers Cave||Eddy|
|Triple Engle Pit||De Baca||Gypsum|
|Baker Creek Cave System||White Pine|
|Tea Kettle Cave||Clark|
|Whipple Cave||White Pine|
|Wounded Knee Cave||Clark|
|Amazing Maze Cave||Pecos|
|Caverns of Sonora||Sutton|
|Diablo Cave||Val Verde|
|Indian Creek Cave||Uvalde|
|Wizard's Well Cavern||Terrell|
|Big Brush Cave||Uintah|
|Duck Creek Lava Tube||Kane||Lava Tube|
|Little Brush Creek Cave||Uintah|
|Neffs Canyon Cave||Salt Lake|
|Nielsons Well (Cave)||Cache|
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