For many cavers, becoming involved with an active project provides a continuing opportunity to interact with other cavers and caves and karst. Such activities may include exploration and survey; digging through cave fill in search of additional passage; using science to study the caves and karst features – geology, mineralogy, biology, micro-biology; conservation activities including restoration and protection; and cave management, including access policies, gating and protection and preservation of the cave environment.
Cave projects can be informal between a group of friends or colleagues, a loose organization between grottoes of the National Speleological Society or a formal, organized project that is chartered with the National Speleological Society or the Cave Research Foundation. Many national parks and monuments with caves have ongoing projects that have been organized, usually by the Cave Research Foundation. Other parks, including Wind and Jewel Caves in South Dakota, have projects with local and regional grottoes of the National Speleological Society. Many of these projects welcome participation.
In Colorado, there are two ongoing projects that should be of interest to cavers.
The Fairy Caves Project at Glenwood Caverns began in 1999 when Steve and Jeanne Beckley arranged with Pete Prebble for a lease to buy the long-closed Fairy Cave and develop it as a modern commercial attraction. Cavers from the grottoes of Colorado were invited to assist in a new survey of the cave, to continue exploration and to begin scientific studies. Cavers also were invited to assist with the ongoing commercialization project, which was opening a tunnel entrance to The Barn and clearing trails for visitors.
Cavers today are continuing the goals of the project, which is jointly managed by directors from each of the member grottoes.
For further information, please contact the Fairy Caves Project by email message.
The Williams Canyon Project at Manitou Springs was chartered with the National Speleological Society in 1989, but the project began in 1981 when Grant Carey, the General Manager of the commercial Cave of the Winds, invited Colorado cavers to begin ongoing projects in the cave. These efforts included a comprehensive survey of the cave, scientific studies and excavation of clay and rock fill in the cave to discover unknown extensions.
National Speleological Society cavers had worked with the management on and off since the early 1950s, when the cave’s Traffic Manager Guy Boyd, an NSS member who helped found the Colorado Grotto with Dr. William R. Halliday, welcomed cavers to explore the caves of Williams Canyon. This arrangement lasted until the early 1960s. In the early 1970s, cavers undertook the first survey of the Cave of the Winds and the Manitou Grand Caverns. In the late 1970s, the management welcomed efforts by cavers to secure the entrance to Huccacove Cave with a locked gate. Despite setbacks when the gate was damaged or removed by vandals seeking access, cavers ultimately secured the cave, gaining the trust of the Cave of the Winds management. By 1981, Grant Carey decided to allow cavers to undertake specific projects within the commercial cave.
Through the decade, efforts by cavers discovered major new extensions to the Cave of the Winds, surveyed known caves and documented additional caves in the canyon. This allowed cavers to create the Williams Canyon Project, a management organization to assist the Cave of the Winds management in protecting, studying, documenting and exploring their caves.
The current project management includes representatives from each member grotto, as well as Cave of the Winds-appointed directors.
National Speleological Society and grotto-affiliated cavers are welcome to participate in both projects, and to work toward trip leadership and management roles.
Other projects are held in nearby states, including ongoing exploration, survey and studies at Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Derek Bristol in Littleton is the Colorado Coordinator for trips into Wind Cave, and is also knowledgeable about Jewel Cave trips. The Cave Research Foundation has an ongoing project at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, and many cavers also participate in trips into Lechuguilla Cave at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.