• Wind Cave National Park - Two Worlds

    Wind Cave

    National Park South Dakota

Lost Fissure Rediscovery

Historic pipe and tobacco bag

Historic tobacco can

NPS archive photo

Trip: On 11/17/2012, Rod Horrocks led Ken Geu, Mathias Oppolzer, and Duff McCafferty to the Candlelight Tour Route where they rediscovered a passage they named the Lost Fissure.

Trip Report: We went to the north end of the Attic to the start of the MY survey in order to survey side leads. Starting at MY1, we shot into a parallel side passage. After seven shots, we closed a loop with MY3. Moving down the MY survey to MY7, we then shot underneath a ceiling ledge on the west side of the passage and into a large, smooth-floored room that reminded the surveyors of a giant toilet bowl, so we named it the Great Flush. I can think of at least four round, smooth-floored rooms such as this one that I've found in Wind Cave over the years. It was a nice surprise.

We left a tight lead at the bottom of the pit located at the back of the room. Moving to the east side of the MY survey, to MY7A, we shot up a fissure and into a passage that just reconnected with the unnamed room that MY35 and 43 are located in. Moving to MY83, a station in a high fissure off of that same room, we shot into a phreatic tube in the north wall of the fissure. Unfortunately, it just looped around in three shots and reconnected to the fissure we were in. We could see another tube, this one larger, about 12-feet higher up the vertical wall, but there was no way to climb to it. A lead for the future generation. Moving on to MY88, a station I left along the east wall of the unnamed room during my last trip to the area, we shot into a wide, flat-floored passage heading east. There was nothing at that level to the east of us, so were excited.

The Cakewalk area is located at a lower level to the east and the MY survey is located at a higher level, but nothing at our level. Unfortunately, the nice passage ended after three stations. We did find one small hole in the floor that went to a dead-end room, but that was it. We then went to the west side of the big room and shot into a side passage from MY35 that ended after three shots. Moving down the MY survey to the north, we shot into side crawls at MY39 and 40, however, both leads only went two shots. In order to avoid a mutiny at that point, I decided to abandon the MY survey. When we got back to the Attic, we had a group discussion of which leads we wanted to check next. Mathias was really interested in surveying the tight pit lead next to the Candlelight Tour trail in the Chamber de Norcutt that I had showed him a couple of months previously. That sounded like a great idea to me, so we headed there.

Once we got to the pit in the Chamber de Norcutt, we could see the red tobacco tin that we first spotted in 2009 when we uncovered the entrance to this pit during some cave restoration work. So, I suspected that the pit had been previously entered. However, there was always a chance that the tin had been dropped down the pit. Mathias was able to squeeze down the slot past a chockstone and confirm that the area went and that there were 1890's artifacts down there. The pit had been blocked with trail construction debris, probably from the 1930's until we rediscovered it in 2009. Since Duff and I couldn't fit past the chockstones at the top of the pit, I wanted to see if I could remove the debris that was wedged at the top of the pit. After a little pounding with a hammerstone-sized piece of trail construction debris I found alongside the trail, I was able to pull out a 20 pound and then wrestle out a 50 pound chockstone. We started our survey from the brass cap at L27 near the top of the stairs in the Chamber de Norcutt. Since I didn't have a lineplot of the area with me and I couldn't remember how many L27 stations I had previously used, I sent Ken down the L27 survey to see how many stations there were. He only found stations A through G. However, just to play it safe, I started at L27P instead of L27H. That was because I really didn't want to come back and re-label the stations on Monday if Ken had missed some stations.

After Duff climbed down the pit, we realized that the huge 500-pound boulder he had climbed over was actually a large piece of trail construction debris that was precariously wedged at the top of the pit. That made us sufficiently nervous that we decided that only one person at a time would climb the pit. At the bottom of the trail debris covered slope, the passage opened into a flat-floored walking passage with a low room extending to the NE. I decided to name the area Tobacco Flats, after the historic red tobacco tin we found. The main passage headed NW where it briefly restricted down to a bellycrawl and then opened back up. After 50 feet, we encountered a deep fissure/canyon. The narrow fissure dropped stair-step fashion down 16 feet to a point that it constricted to 10 cm and then dropped out-of-sight another 20+ feet. This would make this fissure the deepest thing in that region of the cave. There was air coming out of the pit, so I know there is more cave down there. The question is how to get there.

The 30-40-foot high fissure went 45 feet and then opened into a flat-floored room and then narrowed again into a fissure. After one more shot, we decided the fissure was getting too tight for our group. About half way back the main fissure; there was a 7-foot climb into a side passage that went to a pit that would be a very difficult climb down. We skipped that lead and backtracked to a lead that went south at the beginning of the fissure. We knocked that one off in two shots. Since we got to L27Z, I decided to leave the six remaining leads in the area for a future trip, when we know for sure if we could use L27H-O. I decided to name the fissure, The Lost Fissure, since it had been lost somewhere between 70-120 years. It was interesting to think about the fact that no one currently alive had seen this passage.

To give Mathias a chance to practice his sketching, we then went to the Pebble on the Fairgrounds Tour Route to survey some passages underneath the Pebble that I remembered seeing on a previous trip. We started at UY1 and shot up to UY1F with six shots, when we closed a loop with UY23. We left one lead in the breakdown before calling it a night. We ended up surveying 646 feet for the day.

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