Mammoth Cave Restoration Field Camp


The second annual Mammoth Cave Restoration Field Camp was held on July 29 to August 4, 1990. This year Norm Rogers had volunteered (was drafted) to be the coordinator of the field camp. Sunday afternoon a few of the participants had a preview of this years work area when Bob Ward led them in the elevator entrance to the Snowball Dining Room and the Cathedral Domes areas.

This year an additional building was available for our use. This was an air conditioned bunkhouse and contained about 34 bunks. This greatly increased the space available and eliminated the need for people to sleep on the floor as some had last year. Also two additional toilet and shower areas had been created out of the garage attached to the house we used last year making a total of four now available greatly reducing the long wait for a shower after a day in a dirty cave.

On Monday morning the group was split up to cover the three main project areas. (It appears that last years experience had convinced the NPS that one project wasn't sufficient for a weeks worth of volunteer effort by dedicated cavers.)

The first project area was on Cleveland Avenue starting just beyond the Snowball dining room and working toward the Carmichael Entrance. On the left side of the passage was a pile of broken limestone that had been stacked there when the elevator entrance was created. This rock supply was about five feet high, six to eight feet deep and 50 to 100 feet long. Quite a few tons of rocks to say the least. the project was to load these rocks in wheelbarrows and use them to line the trail from the Snowball Dining room as far down the passage as possible. This was done to outline the trail to encourage tourists to stay on the trail and away from gypsum formations on the walls. Each piece of limestone was loaded into wheel barrows, wheeled down the passage, dumped and lovingly placed by hand to create an obvious edge to each side of the trail.

Project number two was the rigging of Thorpes' Pit and removal of debris from the bottom. Following completion of that project two moved to the Cathedral Domes area and removed the remains of old stairs at the bottom of the dome. This project was done to remove unsightly materials from the tour route and to remove unnatural food sources for the cave life.

The third project was the removal of wood debris from the far side of Crystal Lake and tourist litter in the Frozen Niagara section of the cave. This required rigging off of the tour route handrail and hauling debris up the pit to the tourist trail.

Monday evening we were treated to a slide show on Floyd Collins and the Cave Wars by Ranger Bob DeGross.

Tuesday started with a bang at about 2:30 AM! Most of the people in the bunkhouse were awakened when the lights came on in the middle of the night. It seems that one of the participants had turned over on the top bunk and fell to the floor with a bang. He survived with minor bruises to his body and major bruises to his ego.

Resuming our work on Cleveland Avenue we found that about 1/4 mile of trail was lined but the NPS was concerned that our methods were improper. We had stacked rocks two or three high on each side of the trail. We were told that wouldn't work! The NPS was concerned that if a tourist stepped on the rocks they would move and the tourist might fall and be injured. We were advised that only one layer of rock was to be used. So we spent part of the day moving the rocks we had moved the day before.

Project group two completed clean up of Thorpes' Pit and made good progress on the Cathedral Domes area. Today part of group two switched places with part of group one since everybody wanted a chance to move heavy limestone! Everyone learned that a "John Rock" was a monster piece of limestone that John Vargo loved to load into a wheelbarrow and everyone else hated to try to move again.

Project three had made good progress but caused disruption of the tours as the tourists wanted to look over the rail and watch the cavers on rope thus delaying the progress of the tour. With a tour passing group three about every 30 minutes the rangers had their hands full encouraging tourists to move on to avoid conflicts with following tours.

An evening slideshow and talk was presented by Dave Foster from The American Cave Conservation Association (ACCA) on his organizations purpose and plans for a Museum in Horse Cave, Kentucky.

On Wednesday a review of project one showed another 1/8 mile of progress. Due to the rework of the Monday activity and the increasing distance from the rock pile progress was slowing but still moving forward in this area. Several people from this project joined the Crystal Lake project for a change of pace.

On project two it was decided that with all of the remaining people on project one joining those on project two the Cathedral Domes project could be completed today. This project was finished by lunch time. After lunch a few more left for fame and glory at Crystal Lake while the remainder returned to the slave labor at the rock pile. The Limestone Sisters (bored cavers moving rocks) entertained the group with their singing while piling rocks. After a while their singing began to cause others to wonder how long it would be before the bodies were found if we covered them with the trail rocks.

Wednesday evening brought a program presented by George Gregory, Park Natural History Specialist, on the geology of the area.

Thursday finds project three completed at Crystal Lake and project one at about 1/2 mile of trail lined with rocks. An additional project was started cleaning several small pits near the New Entrance. As today was a scheduled half work day we returned to Maple Springs at lunch time. After lunch we had a short talk by David Mihalic the Park Superintendent who thanked us for the work we were doing for the park. After the superintendents talk 5 people went to Ganter Cave for a wild cave tour and 34 went to Great Onyx Cave (site of last years project) for a photo and exploration trip. Most were out of Great Onyx by 8:30 but a party of nine remained with four of the group exploring over the dam in the lake at the bottom of the cave in an attempt to find a connection to Mammoth. While they were unsuccessful in their attempts they did stay in the cave long enough to miss the last ferry across Green River and had to make the 50 mile trip through Brownsville to get back to camp.

Friday the Cleveland Avenue project ended at about 3/4 of a mile of passage lined and stopped at a point where the natural breakdown tends to keep tourists on the trail. The Frozen Niagara and New Entrance projects were wrapped up at about the same time as the trail project and tools and materials were removed from the cave completing this years projects around 3 PM. Friday evening was spent in an impromptu slide show, lie telling session and packing up for tomorrow's departure.

On Saturday reward trips were taken to Floyd Collins Crystal Cave for a couple of hours on the tourist trail for some and a couple more hours in more remote areas of the cave for others. Some people took the opportunity to take some of the scheduled tours in Mammoth to areas they had not yet seen. 2 Mammoth Cave Restoration Field Camps 1989 - 1996 Mammoth Cave Restoration Field Camps 1989 - 1995