Stark Caverns survey project trip report
Date – 26 Feb 2022
Participants – Bill Gee, Becky Nelson, Scott Wenzel and Seth Colston (KCAG)
Kohl Mitchell, John Roth and Shannon Zaloz (Chouteau)
Laurel Dunn (PEG)
We went into the cave about 0930. Since four of the crew had never been in the cave, we did a quick walk-around of the tourist trail. We split into two teams. One team was Seth, Laurel, Scott and Becky. The other was Bill, John, Shannon and Kohl. We worked our way out the Rugged Canyon passage to station R20 which was the end of the previous survey. Seth’s team started there. Bill’s team went on to the end of the upper level passage, then started a survey working backwards. In addition to getting survey, this was a teaching opportunity. On Bill’s team all four members did sketching. We shared ideas around and compared our sketches to see what ideas everyone had. We surveyed seven stations, then connected with Seth’s team who had gained 12 stations.
It was about 1430, not enough time to really get started on more survey. Bill had dropped into a hole during a break and found walking passage beyond. Everyone dropped into that hole and went on. We scooped another 300 feet or so of cave, ending in a fairly miserable but mostly dry belly crawl. Seth, Shannon and Kohl pushed on another hundred feet or so. This is not virgin cave. There is an obvious elephant trail through it.
At the very end Shannon found some salamander larvae, too small to identify species. We also saw a few pickerel frogs and an old turtle shell perched on a rock.
We turned around and worked our way out of the cave. It was tough going! The cave is tight, convoluted and jagged. It is only a few hundred feet from the end of the survey to the tourist trail, but it took all of 30 minutes to traverse it. We were out of the cave at 1615. After changing and checking out with the staff, we went to Si Señors in Eldon for dinner.
The Rugged Canyon is really two and sometimes three passages stacked on top of each other. The lowest level is a belly crawl in the stream and the middle is mostly impassable due to tight constrictions. The upper level is very challenging due to constrictions and jagged rock. The end of our survey is now at the end of the old 1960 map in a room marked as “Clay Flow”. Eventually we need to run a line through as much of the stream level as we can.