by Kirsten Alvey-Mudd
NSS 2015 Convention Cave Chair
Missouri is currently home to over 7,000 known caves. Nearly 800 of these caves sit within an hour drive in the six counties surrounding NSS 2015 Convention in Waynesville, Missouri. NSS Convention 2015 will offer approximately 200 caves for various levels of experience- from the young or exhausted, family-bad back-old knees friendly, to the down and dirty muddy-wet belly crawlways for the nitty gritty hardcore caver- to the expertise of the certified cave diver. Caves of Missouri author Dr. J. Harlan Bretz used such terms as “unctuous” red clay, meanders and sinuous passage when describing Pulaski County’s varied caving environments.
Missouri is known for many types of caving, but unlike the TAG region, we offer only a few pit caves which will be available only at post convention camp in Southeast Missouri at Perryville. Our primary convention region is the home of MUD! Most Missouri cavers lovingly refer to the Pulaski region as “Poo” County because of the pasty clay combo which you will encounter in some form or another in almost every convention cave. Depending on Mother Nature’s attitude it will be dry, pasty, or sloppy!! Come prepared!! Not all caves need a wetsuit, but you know yourself better than we do! If you tend to get cold bring one, just in case. Most local cavers use good polypro and decent mid-weight coveralls for all but the long, hard core trips.
In addition to some of the most beautiful combinations of spelothems large and small, Missouri also offers a large variety of bio-diverse cave life. A Guide To Missouri Cave Life (http://goo.gl/bHVPB6) offers previews of most of Missouri’s abundant underground wildlife. Grotto Salamanders (a Species of Conservation Concern in Missouri) are a regular sight in many of the area caves. Gray Bats, listed as Endangered by both the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are also frequently found in area caves. Several Gray Bat night flight experiences will be offered at locations just minutes from the campground. Bring your cameras!
* ALL CAVES are on a FIRST COME basis! A limited group of caves will be open throughout Convention for caving at any time you choose. Another selection of caves will have advance on-line registration for PAID convention attendees and will be made available no later than May 1st to help cavers who wish to know in advance of their cave plans. However, at least half of all cave trips for each cave will only be made open the NIGHT BEFORE at the campground to ensure that everyone attending convention have an opportunity to cave if they choose to.
Another quintessential Missouri caving experience is the cave and float combo! Whether canoeing or kayaking, some of the convention’s caves can best be reached and viewed by way of one of the areas seven larger creeks and rivers. A limited number of free canoes and kayaks (including roundtrip portage from the campground) will be available during convention. Registration for these will be available nightly at the campground. Open caves will be flagged with cave number at the waterline to correspond with the guide book along featured routes for easy cave/float access. Personal kayaks and canoes are welcome but MUST follow all portage and public access rules to avoid potential towing and/or ticketing. Discounted leisure floats and kayaking experiences will be made available through Pulaski County’s local outfitters. For more on leisure floating in Pulaski County, and a listing of area outfitters, please see The Hitchhikers Guide To Floating In Pulaski County, available online at http://wp.me/p2Gvbm-sX.
Fort Leonard Wood, at 65,000 acres, is the heart of Pulaski County. A selection of caves on the installation will be offered during Convention as well. In addition to caving opportunities, Fort Leonard is also the only place in the country where you can see three U.S. Army Branch (Engineer, Chemical Corps, & Military Police) museums in a single location. The museums are housed in the John B. Mahaffey Complex, which is also home to the World War II Complex and Memorial Parks walking tour. The museums are free admission and are open to the public. Fort Leonard Wood is an active federal military training installation and ALL FEDERAL RULES APPLY. To access the installation you will need to present current, valid U.S. photo identification, such as drivers license, for all passengers over the age of 18. You will also want to have your vehicle registration and proof of insurance readily accessible. Your vehicle is also subject to search – so please leave weapons, fireworks, or other incendiary devices at home. International Convention attendees MUST receive advance clearance directly from the U.S. Army Provost Marshall. Convention staff WILL NOT facilitate international access.
During NSS 2015 Convention your NSS number will be your passport to a unique decontamination service. You only have to drop your dirty gear off at the decon area and pick it up the next day, and you are ready for caving again! Your number will accompany your gear as it is power washed, scrubbed, and hot water deconned courtesy of U.S. Army & local Boy Scout volunteers. Your gear will be dried and packed back into a clean trash bag. Re-use the trash bag the following day when you turn in your gear again! This concierge service will follow current USFWS Decontamination protocol. Concierge service is not available for sensitive gear such as cameras and non-submersibles. Brushes, 409, and Lysol wipes will be provided at the decon station.
Stay up to date on the latest news and announcements from NSS 2015 Convention at http://nss2015.caves.org/index.shtml. Discounted registration continues until June 1st- register today!