WHAT ARE CAVES?

Caves are cavities in the earth formed by any of a variety of geological processes. Some are mere hollows created by the erosional action of wind, running water, or waves. Lava caves form when the interior of an advancing lava flow remains molten and moves from underneath the cooled, hardened lava surface, leaving behind a sinuous tube. Most common are "solution caves", created by the dissolving action of groundwater. Most solution caves are formed in limestone because it is abundant and it's main mineral constituents of calcite, is relatively soluble.

According to cave scientists or "speleologists", the cycle of cave formation begins when rainwater becomes mildly acidic by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and soil. If the bedrock through which this water passes is limestone, the rock minerals may dissolve to form a cave.

PREPARATION FOR CAVING

  • Make sure that you have obtained the proper permission or permits from the landowners.
  • Notify a responsible the person that you are going caving, giving the name and location of the cave. Also, state the approximate expected time of return. Should you run into car problems, etc., please make every effort to reach a phone so that an unnecessary rescue attempt does not result.
  • Have a responsible leader and sufficient experienced cavers on the trip,
  • Every person should be sure to include three sources of light: lamp (carbide or electric), waterproof flashlight, and a third source such as a waterproof penlight. Candles are not recommended as they drip unsightly wax on cave walls and floors and are easily blown out.
  • Every person should be sure to include the following items in their pack.

 

 

  • Hard hat with chin strap and mounted lamp.
  • Good boots that provide ankle support and Vibram-type soles are recommended. Avoid leather soles which are slippery, and tennis shoes which allow the foot to be crushed between rocks.
  • Sufficient fresh water for personal use, at least a quart. Never assume that any water found in a southern Arizona cave is safe for drinking.
  • Sealable container for "used" carbide if you are using carbide lights. Be careful of thin plastic bags that tear easily and can spill the carbide in your cave pack or on the floor.
  • Ample extra carbide or back-up batteries and bulbs for double the time you intend to spend in the cave.
  • The following are optional personal items which may be carried on caving trips. Many experienced cavers consider these essential.

 

 

 

  • Gloves with rough finish to protect your hands from cuts and keep them clean.
  • Knee pads can be very helpful.
  • Pocket knife.
  • Cave snack or lunch. Sandwiches hold up only if protected by Tupperware-type containers.Baby bottles work well for raisins, nuts, candies like M & Ms, etc. Be sure to take all food and trash out of the cave when you leave.
  • Sturdy carrying bag or pack.
  • Small first aid kit.

 

  • Vertical caving requires more experience and skill than horizontal caving and should be attempted only by those with previous experience or training in vertical techniques. If necessary, general vertical equipment should include:

 

 

  • Climbing ropes, 7/16" nylon is recommended. Use only ropes designed specifically for caving, available at local outdoor suppliers.
  • Nylon sling material, carabiners, etc. Not bolts, which permanently scar the cave.
  • Each person should have his own personal seat sling, etc.

DO....

  • Check entrance for rattlesnakes since they are quite common in most southern Arizona caves.
  • Go to the bathroom before entering the cave.
  • Take loose things out of your pockets.
  • Bring something to clean eyeglasses.
  • Take your trash out of the cave.

DON'T....

  • Don't cave alone. Three to seven are ideal.
  • Don't run or jump in a cave.
  • Don't split up. Never go off alone in a cave.
  • Don't damage the cave.

CONSERVATION PRACTICES

The #1 thing to remember is that a cave is a closed environment and a non-renewable resource. Anything left in the cave will change it's environment and anything broken will never grow back. Caves, with their many fragile white crystals and other formations, are especially vulnerable to carelessly placed hands and feet. Mud-stained crystals and flowstone will never regain their original beauty. The following rules apply in all Arizona caves:

  • Do not mark or deface a cave in any way.
  • Carry out all refuse...leave nothing to mar the cave's beauty.
  • Take nothing, specimens or souvenirs, out of any cave. State law expressly forbids this. This includes rocks already broken off and lying on the floor.
  • Use retrievable markers to prevent getting lost. A plastic spoon with red reflective tape attached works well. You may also build rock caims from loose rocks on the floor. Do not use any spray paint, string, or permanent marking.
  • Do not disturb any living creature encountered in any cave.
  • Leave all gates as found when approaching and leaving a cave. 

Before you go caving make certain that you have obtained the proper permission or permits from the landowners.  Notify a responsible person that you are going caving, giving the name and location of the cave. Also, state the approximate expected time of return. Should you run into car problems, etc., please make every effort to reach a phone so that an unnecessary rescue attempt does not result. 

Everyone should be sure to include three sources of light: a lamp (carbide or electric), a waterproof flashlight, and a third source such as a waterproof penlight. Candles are not recommended as they drip unsightly wax on cave walls and floors and are easily blown out. 

Every person should be sure to include the following items in their pack. Hard hat with chin strap and mounted lamp.  Good boots that provide ankle support and Vibram-type soles are recommended. Avoid leather soles that are slippery, and tennis shoes that allow the foot to be crushed between rocks. Sufficient fresh water for personal use, at least a quart. Never assume that any water found in a southern Arizona cave is safe for drinking. Bring a container for "used" carbide if you are using carbide lights. Be careful of thin plastic bags that tear easily and can spill the carbide in your cave pack or on the floor. Ample extra carbide or back-up batteries and bulbs for double the time you intend to spend in the cave. You may want to bring a pair of gloves with a rough finish to protect your hands from cuts and keep them clean. I would also recommend a small pocketknife and a small first aid kit.

Vertical caving requires more experience and skill than horizontal caving and should only be attempted by those with previous experience or training in vertical techniques. 

Always check the entrance for rattlesnakes since they are quite common in most southern Arizona caves. Never go caving alone, bring along several friends to enjoy the experience.  It is a lot safer and a bunch more fun.  

Always remember that a cave is a closed environment and a non-renewable resource. Anything left in the cave will change its environment and anything broken will never grow back. Caves, with their many fragile white crystals and other formations, are especially vulnerable to carelessly placed hands and feet. Mud-stained crystals and flowstone will never regain their original beauty. 

Do not mark or deface a cave in any way. Carry out all refuse...leave nothing to mar the cave's beauty. Take nothing, specimens or souvenirs, out of any cave. State law expressly forbids this. This includes rocks already broken off and lying on the floor. Use retrievable markers to prevent getting lost. A plastic spoon with red reflective tape attached works well. Do not use any spray paint, string, or permanent marking. Do not disturb any living creature encountered in any cave. Leave all gates as found when approaching and leaving a cave.