Go Caving in Wyoming - Wyoming Magazine

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Go Caving in Wyoming

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Caving is also called spelunking and is the sport of cave exploration. It involves a number of activities including climbing, hiking and crawling. Many caves are open to the public and accessible enough that anyone can get into them, regardless of their physical shape and skills. Some of these caves have amenities like handrails and electric lights to make them easier for the average visitor to traverse.

Caving in Wyoming

Caving in Wyoming

Photo Courtesy of dominik18s

Wyoming is known for its natural geological wonders such as Yellowstone National Park and the Tetons. Those traditional above-ground attractions may be more esteemed in the eyes of the traveling public, but now its caves are garnering attention as well. Wyoming offers lots of opportunities for cavers to go exploring. Here are a few of the best:

Horsethief Cave

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While Wyoming has many caves suitable for all kinds of visitors, it also has those that should be left to experienced spelunkers. Horsethief Cave is one such cave. Traversing the more advanced caves requires special skills and equipment. This cave is located in the Bighorn Mountains in the northern part of Wyoming, right on the border with Montana.

Horsethief Cave and Montana’s Bighorn Cave are both parts of the same cave system. The cave system has just under eight miles of mapped passage but neither cave has been completely explored or mapped.

Spelunkers will start their adventure in Lovell. From there they will make their way to the base camp, which cavers have dubbed “the Armpit.” It features an old cabin with no electricity or running water. Even so, you will find that it provides adequate shelter from the elements. From the base camp, it will be a short drive to the cave’s entrance where you will need a key and a permit to enter. You will need to sign in and put your destination so that if you need to be rescued, rescuers will have an idea of where to find you. After this, you will put on your dust mask and start crawling. Horsethief Cave is considered one of the state‚Äôs prettiest due to its numerous oddly shaped formations called speleothems.

Tongue River Cave

Tongue River Cave

As one of the most popular caves in Wyoming, Tongue River Cave has had its share of problems with vandalism. Still, this cave is perfect for those who are still learning how to cave. The cave is located in the Bighorn National Forest to the west of Dayton, which makes getting to it easy.

The cave’s entrance is a hole that is roughly five feet in diameter and that is located on the Tongue River Canyon’s south wall. The entrance has been gated by the National Forest Service and leads to a small room with a pit. From there, spelunkers can go to the Rain Room No. 1 and follow the winding fissure to the Camp Room. This large room has a flat sandy floor. Other rooms in the Tongue River Cave include the Sled Room and the Boulder Room, which contains large pieces of breakdown. There is a stream about 100 feet south from the Boulder Room. There is a striking waterfall in this part of the cave. There is a siphon located at the end of the cave.

If you are an intermediate level caver, Tongue River Cave may provide the ideal setting for you to gain experience.

Natural Trap Cave

Natural Trap Cave

Located at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, this cave is 80 feet deep and has an entrance that is 15 feet wide. It is very difficult to see this entrance until it is almost right under foot. Cavers will have to free rappel down to the cave floor. At this point they will be in a room that is 150 feet long and 100 feet wide. Natural Trap Cave’s lowest point is the lowest point in this room. This room was a trap for a variety of prehistoric animals, hence the name of the cave. The cave was discovered by paleontologists in the 1970s and many fossils have been found here including those of collared lemmings, lions and cheetahs.

To the east of this room, there is a crawlway that leads to a set of smaller rooms and more crawlways eventually arriving at another large room. This room is 150 feet long and 100 feet wide.

To enter Natural Trap Cave, spelunkers will have to get permits and keys from the Bureau of Land Management office in Worland.

Wyoming’s caves are natural wonders and should be treated as such. Visitors should be careful not to damage or otherwise mistreat them. In recent years, a number of caves have been closed due to vandals and others who have caused damage and disturbed the wildlife. Similarly, no trash should be left in caves.

 

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