Two-foot Long Fossil Burrow Discovery
NPS Photo by Derek Marohn
Trip: On 1/25/2006, Rod Horrocks led Derek Marohn to the Isolation Room area in the Historic Section where they found a 2-foot long fossil burrow.
Trip Report: We went to resurvey the UE & UEA surveys done by Jim Palmer in 1973. We noticed that some ceiling pendants were blasted at UEA1. There was a pile of bowling ball sized blasted rocks scattered down the slope all the way to UE3. There was also a pile at UEA20. We left a fissure/dome lead to survey at UEA1 for a later trip.
At UEA4, we surveyed down the plugged connection to Phantom Lake, mainly because Derek dropped his camera down the hole and he had to go and retrieve it. Luckily, it stopped at the edge of a too-tight hole that he wouldn't have fit into. We noticed lots of web-like material strung all around that area. Some of it is apparently calcified. It is unclear if it is an insect web or a type of fungus. I've seen similar webs near areas where organic flood debris is found in Wind Cave. We also noticed white material that looked like moonmilk flowstone. It may be biological in origin. We took pictures of both.
We then found an inscription at UEA20 that read, "Radiators installed 8-18-35". Apparently, the radiators had been installed in this area just after the elevator shaft had been excavated in 1934 and before the elevators were completed in October of 1935. The CCC had excavated the passage between UEA5 and UE5 from a crawlway to a flat-floored walking passage. They also excavated the floor between UE5-6 and built a rock retaining wall in the Isolation Room. In some areas the excavation was at least 6-feet deep. They had excavated a tremendous amount of material and went to a lot of work to create a place to cool the power plant water! The radiators were a system of pipes that wound back and forth through the room that cooled off the water from the diesel power plant on the surface that was pumped down the elevator shaft and through the pipes, before being pumped back to the surface.
We left a climbing lead at UEA20. At UE4, we surveyed up into a sand-floored fissure bellycrawl underneath boxwork. At UE4F, we found a 4' x 1.5' pool of water that was 2" deep. The passage continued beyond as a belly crawl. The most interesting thing was a spectacular burrow that is roughly horizontal, parallel with the beds, and about 2-feet long. This burrow has some small spike-like branches or chambers off of it and is connected into the wall at both ends. It is definitely the longest fossil burrow discovered to date in Wind Cave (by a long shot). We got several pictures of it. After surveying a couple of dead-end side passages, we called it a day. For the trip, we resurveyed 275 feet and added 155 feet of new passage to the Wind Cave survey.
Click here to return to Caving Narratives.
Did You Know?
Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.