Jewel Cave Surpasses the 175-Mile Mark
Volunteer cavers entered Jewel Cave on Friday, February 13th for a four-day exploration trip to discover new passages.By Sunday evening, they had surveyed enough footage to surpass the 175-mile mark.On average, about five miles of new cave are mapped and surveyed each year.Yet, this milestone extends the continued excitement of exploration and discovery at one of the longest caves in the world.
The cavers focused their efforts near a new camp site, established in the western branch of Jewel Cave this past fall.
Over the past few months, cavers have been finding many large passages heading off the current "edge" of the map into unknown territory. The objective of this recent trip over Valentine's Day Weekend was to continue mapping in this new area beyond a constriction point called The Southwest Splinter.
The cavers spent four hours on the first day hauling 15-pound camp packs into West Camp.Splitting into two groups, they spent the remainder of the day mapping nearby passages.The following day, the cavers explored a section of cave two to three hours south from West Camp, in areas named Crosscut Boulevard and Crushing Deep.Due to the holiday weekend, the group named one of the newly discovered passages "The Heartland Express."
On day three, one team continued to explore an area about three hours south of West Camp and found the passages too tight for human entry or the passages ended abruptly.Yet, this same group discovered a new "low point" for Jewel Cave, measuring 677 feet.The second team found an interesting wall of crystalline stalagmite "fins," which was aptly named "The Great Wall."
John Black, Acting Superintendent, states, "This past weekend's trip reflects the significance of Jewel Cave.Not only does the mapping and surveying lengthen the cave's overall mileage, but the new discoveries extend its relevance as one of the great frontiers in the natural world."The total surveyed amount for the trip was 6,557.65 feet;the actual cave length is officially 175.175 miles.However, there are still over 100 passages (leads) left to be explored in this new area.
Jewel Cave National Monument is currently open Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. –4:30 p.m., during the winter months and early spring season.For more information, visit the Monument online at www.nps.gov/jeca or call the visitor center at 605-673-8300.