Colorado Cave Survey   

NOTE: Effective August 1, 2013 the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region will be implementing an adaptive management strategy for white-nose syndrome (WNS) on national forests and grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Kansas. The adaptive management strategy replaces emergency cave closures that have been in place throughout the Region since 2010 when Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), the fungus that causes WNS, was identified in Oklahoma. For national forests and grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Region, most caves are open to public access with some important requirements and exceptions: registration is required to access caves that are open, clothing and equipment used in states/provinces where white-nosed syndrome is found or suspected are prohibited, decontamination procedures following USFWS protocols are required by everyone to enter any and all caves, and all known cave hibernacula are closed during the winter hibernation period. Please refer to the USFS website and the Colorado Cave Survey Closed Cave webpage for more information.

For caves that are open, the USFS website has detailed instructions on how to get authorization. A form must be filled out and sent to

Breaking News: The USGS National Wildlife Health Center recently announced that the identification of the Pd fungus on a bat in Oklahoma was in fact a false positive and the state is no longer considered WNS "suspected". Many public land managers are reviewing this latest information, but there have been no changes to policies as a result of this news.

The Colorado Cave Survey is an elected body of cavers who serve as a liaison between the Colorado caving community and various land management agencies. As such, the Colorado Cave Survey differs in scope and function from many other state cave surveys. Although the Colorado Cave Survey does maintain files on many caves in the state, the Survey has not served historically as a central repository of information on the caves of Colorado, nor has the Survey historically collected survey data from cave mapping projects.

In its liaison role the Colorado Cave Survey has been instrumental in maintaining an open and cooperative relationship between the caving community and the land managers, private, State and Federal, who own and/or manage many of Colorado's caves. The Survey has worked to secure protection for caves and karst in areas threatened by timber harvests, mines and quarries, and road development, and has actively campaigned to maintain access to Colorado's caving resources.

A major function of the Colorado Cave Survey is the administration of controlled-access caves. At present, these include Groaning Cave and LaSunder Cave in Garfield County, and Fly and Marble Caves, in Fremont County. For more information regarding the management of these caves, please consult the Managed-Access Section, below, or visit the the respective websites for these caves. The Survey also maintains a list of Closed & Restricted Access Caves.

A more detailed description of the Colorado Cave Survey may be gleaned from its Constitution and Bylaws and from its Philosophy and Operations.  See also the History of the Colorado Cave Survey section below (under construction).

Although White Nose Syndrome has not yet been reported in Colorado, the impacts of this devastating disease are beginning to be felt in the state. For more information, including the most recent protocols for cleaning and decontaminating cave gear and clothing, please see the White Nose Syndrome section on this page.

Site Map:

Colorado Cave Survey Representatives, 2014
Survey Chair: Kevin Manley (manleyk-at-colorado-dot-edu)
Survey Vice-Chair: Jim Lawton (quinoa-at-frii-dot-com)
Grotto Representatives Email
Colorado Grotto Chair: Rick Speaect rick-at-perryandterry-dot-com
Survey Rep: Stuart Marlatt stuart_marlatt-at-comcast-dot-net
Front Range Grotto Chair: Dave Schmitz dschmitz007-at-yahoo-dot-com
Survey Rep: Derek Bristol derekbristol-at-gmail-dot-com
Northern Colorado Grotto Chair: Kristen Levy kblevy-at-comcast-dot-net
Survey Rep: Jim Lawton quinoa-at-frii-dot-com
Southern Colorado Mountain Grotto Chair: Mudonna Renee Frazier  
Survey Rep: Jeff Polk polk-at-delos-dot-com
Timberline Grotto Chair: Keneka Newton cavekids-at-comcast-dot-net
Survey Rep: Carey Hunter mushmc20-at-netzero-dot-com
Colorado Western Slope Grotto Chair: Ken Headrick cavecritters-at-gmail-dot-com
Survey Rep: Tonya LeMoine cavertonya-at-gmail-dot-com
Red Canyon Grotto Chair: Tony Clementi ynotgocave-at-gmail-dot-com
Survey Rep: Ken Dageforde kadag10-at-juno-dot-com

Please inform me of any updates to this information!

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Colorado Cave Survey Calender

The Cave Survey typically meets 3 times per year, depending on the issues confronting the Colorado caving community. Survey meetings are open to any interested person. Please contact your survey representative for additional information.

Previous Meeting Next Meeting



Wednesday, 27 August 2014
7:30 pm

O'maera Ford
400 W 104th Ave, 
Northglenn, CO 80234


Thursday, 12 March 2015

7:30 pm

Derek Bristol's home
7744 Gunsight Pass
Littleton, CO 80127

Agenda:   Agenda: Please email agenda items to Kevin Manley (manleyk-at-colorado-dot-edu)

(No minutes are available for a number of the past meetings - I am attempting to rectify this, but it will take some time. If you have copies/recollections of minutes from previous meetings, please let me know!)

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Managed-Access Caves

The Colorado Cave Survey currently administrates access to four caves: Groaning and LaSunder Caves in Garfield County, and Fly and Marble Caves in Fremont County. The Survey has been requested to provide day-to-day access management for these caves by their respective land managers (by the United States Forest Service for Groaning Cave, by the BLM for LaSunder, and by the private landowners in the case of Fly and Marble Caves). The mandate accepted by the Cave Survey is to protect the caves and to ensure continued cooperation between the caving community and the land managers.

Access to Groaning Cave has been managed by the Cave Survey since the late 1960's, shortly after the cave's discovery. Groaning is gated, and cavers desiring to visit the cave must request the lock combination from the Cave Survey. More information regarding Groaning Cave is available on the Groaning Cave website.

LaSunder Cave is a unique and beautiful cave in lower Deep Creek Canyon. Discovered in 1989, the cave suffered from excessive visitation, and was gated by the BLM in 1994 (with help from the Colorado Cave Survey). Following extensive negotiations between the CCS and the BLM, a management plan has been completed and the cave has been re-opened to limited visition. Details of the management plan and access requirements are available on the LaSunder Cave website.

       NOTICE !  Fly and Marble Caves are have been reopened.  Please see the Fly and Marble Caves website for more information.

Fly and Marble Caves had been open to public access until a change in ownership in 1999 resulted in the caves being closed for several years. Recently, however, efforts by the Cave Survey (spearheaded by Rick Rhinehart) have resulted in renewed access to these historic caves. For more information regarding visitation, please see the Fly and Marble Caves website.

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Closed and Restricted-Access Caves

The Colorado Cave Survey is NOT broadly in favor of closing caves, gating caves, or restricting access to caves. Unfortunately, there are situations where closures or restrictions are necessary and appropriate, or where the Survey has no voice in the matter. The Survey maintains a list of closed and/or restricted access caves here.

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White Nose Syndrome

Thanks to widespread communication in the organized caving community and coverage in the media, most cavers are aware of White Nose Syndrome (WNS). The situation is grave. First identified in caves of the northeastern United States, WNS has now spread to infect bats in many states east of the Mississippi River.  The Pd fungus, which is the causitive agent of WNS, has been identified as far west as western Oklahoma.  Mortality rates for infected bat colonies may be as high as 70-100% during winter hibernation. There is a very real possibility that some previously common bat species will become threatened or endangered, and some North American ecosystems will see significant reductions in their dominant nocturnal predator for flying insects.

Due to fear of human transport of the fungal spores that cause WNS, cave closures in the eastern U.S. have been implemented in an attempt to slow the spread of the epidemic. WNS has not yet been identified in Colorado, but its arrival may just be a matter of time. The White River National Forest contains many Colorado caves and recommends that all cavers adopt the following procedures:

For the latest on cave access restrictions due to WNS visit the Colorado Closed and Restricted Access Caves webpage.

For more information, please see:

Two-page NSS brochure on WNS:

The official link for the latest news on WNS from the National Speleological Society:

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Recent Colorado Cave Survey Activity and Projects (as well as not so recent...)

Memorandum of Understanding with the Forest Service (2009)
The Colorado Cave Survey has long been an advocate for cave conservation and cave access on public lands in Colorado. This is particularly true in the White River National Forest which contains many of Colorados premier caves. The CCS and WRNF have signed a Memorandum of Understanding which commits both entities to cooperate on issues affecting caves and karst within the boundaries of the forest.

Clear Creek Canyon Caves Study Project (2008/Ongoing)
Individuals from the Colorado Cave Survey are working with Jefferson County Open Space to explore, study and help JCOS manage the caves of Clear Creek Canyon. Well-known caves in the area include Fault, Bear/Tower, as well as the remarkable CJ's Cavern. A new map of CJs was drawn up by cartographer Derek Wolfe and a copy provided to Jefferson County Open Space. Photo documentation and possible restoration of CJs are being considered. For more information please contact Andrea Croskrey (Chair; quartzite13-at-hotmail-dot-com), Dan Castellari (cavesr4all-at-yahoo-dot-com), or Dave Lambert (dlambert-at-ngs-dot-org).

Sulfur Cave Project (2007)
Rick Rhinehart coordinated a project to investigate Sulphur Cave, outside of Steamboat Springs. Although the caves existance was documented as early as 1843, little was known about it due to deadly concentrations of hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide gases in the cave atmosphere. A team of caver experts from universities and the local caving community undertook an investigation with the aid of modern safety equipment. Preliminary results suggest that this sulfur-based cave ecosystem may be as interesting as the legendary Villa Luz in Mexico. The research project continues, but is no longer formally associated with the CCS.

Redstone Mines and Caves Survey (2006)
The Colorado Cave Survey worked with the United States Forest Service, Pitkin County, the State of Colorado, and the holder of unpatented mining claims to document aspects of a mine and associated natural cave passages in Pitkin County. The CCS strove to supply impartial expertise despite conflicts between stakeholders. Geothermal aspects of the site make it prime habitat for a maternity colony of threatened Townsends big-eared bats. In the end, all parties involved united to protect unique habitat for the bats. The site is now protected by bat gates to prevent disturbance of the colony and the mine portals have been stabilized against collapse.

Red Mountain Ranch Park Gypsum Karst (2006)
Red Mountain Ranch Park is a new acquisition by the Larimer County Parks and Open Lands (LCPOL). Gypsum karst was recognized to exist in the area of park at least as early as the 1950s, thanks to observations by Donald Davis. The Colorado Cave survey worked with LCPOL to investigate the gypsum karst. A map of Whitewater Cave was produced by cartographer Chris Andrews and provided to LCPOL.

LaSunder Cave Management (2006)
The Cave Survey became involved with LaSunder Cave in the mid-1980s, working with the BLM to install a gate in the entrance. After significant effort (over many, many years), an official cave management plan was recently completed (Octoer 2006). The cave is once again open for limited visitation. For more information, please visit LaSunder Cave website.

Colorado Cave Survey Database (2005)
The Colorado Cave Survey has begun the process of establishing a database with which to document cave survey activity in Colorado. This project is primarily intended to provide a central repository of survey information, so that cavers can determine who is working in a given cave, thus reducing the probability of re-survey and potentially alleviating unnecessary impact. The CCS Survey Database not intended to be as broad is scope as some state cave surveys: no cave location data will be collected (beyond county or region), and no sensitive information is requested. Rather, cavers who have surveyed or are presently surveying in any Colorado cave are requested to submit the following:
  • Name(s) of Surveyor(s)
  • Name of Cave
  • County Name
  • Survey Dates
  • Short Description of their work - is it ongoing, what is the quality of the survey, etc.
Cavers can offer more information as desired. Please send survey data to Stuart Marlatt at Stuart_Marlatt-at-comcast-dot-net

Colorado Cave Ownership Database (2005)
Although the majority of the caves in Colorado are on Federal lands, there has been considerable confusion over the years regarding who exactly owns which caves. (A good example is Cave of the Clouds, which has been assumed to reside on USFS, BLM, private, or City of Glenwood Springs lands). To help rectify this situation, a Colorado Cave Ownership database is being established. If you would like to contribute to this effort, please provide the following:
  • Name of Cave
  • County Name
  • Ownership (USFS, private, etc.)
  • Documentation or explanation
Please send information to Rick Rhinehart at rrhineh1-at-ix-dot-netcom-dot-com.

LaSunder Clean-Up (2005)
The Glenwood Springs BLM office asked for volunteers to hike in and remove bags of cement from LaSunder Cave. These are left-overs from the gating effort several years ago. Donald Davis has been coordinating the clean-up effort:
  • June 9, 2005: Donald Davis, Matt Simpson, Jeff Welch, Steve Labowskie, Curtis Pattillo, Joel Tracy, Charles Zelenka.
  • July 16, 2005:trip by Donald Davis, Ed LaRock, Eric Wilson, Matt Crass, Dennis Hoburg, John Creager.
Donald estimates that at least two more trips will be required to complete this project.

Fly and Marble Caves (2005)
Fly and Marble Caves had been open to public access until a change in ownership in 1999 resulted in the caves being closed for several years. Recently, however, efforts by the Cave Survey (spearheaded by Rick Rhinehart) have resulted renewed access to these historic caves. For more information regarding visitation, please see the Fly and Marble Caves website.

Cave Creek Cavern Management Plan (1998/2001)
Cave Creek Cavern, in Pike National Forest, was discovered by mining activity and is entered via the original mine adit. The entrance to this tunnel collapsed sometime during the late 1980's and was re-openned by cavers in the early 1990's. This tunnel, however, may be in danger of being premenantly sealed as a target of the Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology, as part of their continuing program aimed at closing abandoned mines. In response to a request from the Fairplay Ranger Office, the Colorado Cave Survey submitted a proposal to stabilize the cave entrance by installation of a steel culvert and to negotiate a management plan. Since this proposal was submitted in early 1998, however, personnel changes in the Fairplay office have relegated this concern to a low-priority issue. The Cave Survey is continuing to work with the Fairplay office to ensure that the Cave will not be closed.

During a visit in early June, 2001, Fred Luizer found that the entrance had been filled with by a small collapse; a dig trip on 30 June 2001 cleared the entrance and stabilized it to some extent, but the descending passage below the entrance remains blocked at this time. (For a full report, see Rick's discussion ).

Lime Creek Timber Harvest (1995)
In 1995, the Sopris District Ranger Office of the United States Forest Service announced its intention to conduct a wide-ranging timber sale, encompassing a number of areas in the Eagle/Frying Pan watershed. Of particular concern were several targetted harvest areas on the eastern rim of Lime Creek. The Cave Survey worked with the Sopris Office to identify threatened caves and to establish harvest parameters which would safe-guard the cave and karst resources in this area. These safe-guards included modifications of the harvest plans (changes from local clear-cuts to selective timbering), the deliniation of buffer zones around caves and drainage regions, and rules regarding slash disposal. While the timber harvest was originally scheduled to begin in 1998, no harvest has begun to date.

Burnt-Mountain Quarry (1992)
In 1992, the Cave Survey worked with Sopris District Ranger Office after plans for a small gravel quarry showed the potential for adverse impacts to Corkscrew and Powerline Caves. Acting on advise from the Survey, the quarry location was moved to a point well removed from any karst features (actually completely off the limestone).

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History of the Colorado Cave Survey

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Access to Colorado Caves

This website is intended to provide pertinent information regarding the Colorado Cave Survey. It is not to be a clearinghouse of cave related data. Specifically, it is the policy of the Colorado Cave Survey not to provide cave location information over the internet. This policy is designed to protect the cave enviroment, the welfare of those visiting the caves, and the relationship between the caving community and cave owners and/or land managers.

Caves represent a fragile, irreplaceable environment, and the act of a single vandal may counteract the long-term efforts of the entire caving community to protect a cave. The cave environment may also pose many dangers to the unprepared visitor; cave rescues are notoriously difficult, and even a seemingly minor accident may prove fatal in the cold, high altitude caves of Colorado. In addition, relations with land owners or land managers are often sensitive, and a single careless visitor may cause a cave to be closed to everyone. Since it is impossible to assess an individual's background, skill, or motivations over the internet, no cave locations will be provided on this site.

If you would like more information regarding Colorado caves, or caving in general, please contact the National Speleological Society or one of the Colorado grottos (links).

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The NSS and its Colorado Chapters: Various Cave Surveys: Other Caving Links:
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Notice regarding email addresses:
       Due to the barrage of spam which invariably results from the publication of email addresses on the web, addresses on this site have been literalized, replacing "@" with "-at-" and "." with "-dot-" (e.g., becomes bubba-at-isp-dot-com). This should be translatable by human eyes, but should prevent net-scouring software from adding these addresses to spamlists. My apologies for the inconvenience.

Questions? Corrections? Please contact Derek Bristol: derekbristol-at-gmail-dot-com
Thanks for you interest! Cave Softly...
Last Updated: 11 March 2015 / Rev. 2.8.6 / Stuart Marlatt