Roubidoux Spring- Below The Surface

By Bob Hathaway
Owner, Odyssey Scuba

There are a lot of good reasons for the NSS Convention 2015 to come to Waynesville, Missouri, yet one of the best reasons will be least visited! Every person attending will pass within mere feet of the opening to one of the most interesting cave systems in the Midwestern United States, yet it takes more than the “usual” cave exploration equipment to see this Cave State wonder…

Waynesville has enjoyed a revitalization of business in the last 3- 5 years that has returned a certain charm to the small Missouri town, and visitors enjoy strolling the downtown area to explore various locally- owned shops and restaurants which line the square. The city also has a rich historical heritage including a section of the “Mother Road” of Old Route 66 running through its middle, noted Civil War sites, and even part of the original Trail Of Tears is inside its limits. However, the beating heart of Waynesville’s natural beauty exists just a short distance from all of this in the form of Roubidoux Springs, a beautiful freshwater spring feeding into the Roubidoux River which divides the town into its eastern and western parts.

Visitors are able to park their cars alongside the river at the Roy Laughlin Park and walk along a short, well- maintained span of the Trail Of Tears Memorial Walkway leading from the Route 66 Bridge up to the spring. They are often fascinated at the sight of trout and other types of local fish swimming in the crystal clear water, and can pause occasionally to read the historical markers placed along the way. Even more fascinating to a large number of visitors as they round the bend is the unexpected sight of scuba divers making their way into and out of Roubidoux Springs cave/cavern system!

Cave and cavern divers have been drawn to Roubidoux Springs for decades, fascinated both by its beauty and challenge. The spring is located within the city park system, so park rules and regulations are in effect. A Cave or Cavern certification is required to dive the springs, and the city has implemented a check- in/check- out protocol for those diving there. This protocol is more often self- enforced by divers themselves instead of law enforcement as a way of keeping thrill seekers and the uninformed out of harm’s way. Divers are appreciative of having such a wonderful resource for their enjoyment, and take serious the measures and responsibilities put in place to protect it.

The shallow pool at the mouth of the spring often fools passersby to the true extent of the massive cave system just below their feet, which was recently explored by technical divers to a distance of nearly two miles as it winds its way back under the city. The actual distance the cave goes back is still unknown, and plans for further explorations are continuously being made as advances in equipment and technology expand. Divers are eager to be among those who have extended the line to its furthest point, and travel from all across the United States as well as foreign countries to be a part of the effort. While cave divers certainly dominate the diving at Roubidoux Springs it is certainly not limited to them. Cavern divers also have one of the largest and most interesting areas to explore in the Midwestern United States, and with the support of Odyssey Scuba & Travel (located less than a quarter of a mile away) it is a fun and easy way to spend a day of diving. While cavern diving is much more restrictive in limits than cave diving (including a linear distance limit of one hundred thirty feet of exploration, and being within sight of ambient light at all times) it also enables a greater number of sport divers to enjoy the experience.

Photo by Jennifer Idol, Ozark Cave Diving Alliance www.ocda.org

Photo by Jennifer Idol, Ozark Cave Diving Alliance http://www.ocda.org

Cavern divers suit up on shore and wade into the 55- 58F temperature water at the mouth of the spring. Use of dry suits is preferred, but certainly a thick wetsuit is an option. Final safety checks are performed, then divers slip into the small opening located just beneath the walkway bridge over the bubbling water. The narrow opening extends back approximately twelve feet before beginning to slant downward to a depth of over forty feet. The cavern zone also widens out to reveal a massive room where divers are able to explore along the cracks and crevices of the walls.

Even underwater in a cave there is life, and with patience and a good eye cave fauna can be found. Roubidoux Springs is currently the site for an on- going fauna count, and several local divers are involved in this scientific endeavor to better understand and protect the delicate creatures existing here. Blind cave fish, crawdads, and other animals are identified and studied, and are happily thriving at Roubidoux Springs. It’s a lot of fun to see one of these tiny residents going about their lives as one explores among the rocks and holes!

At the furthest point back in the cavern zone the actual cave system begins. This smaller tunnel- like opening is prominently marked by a “grim reaper” caricature sign, warning non- cave certified divers that they have reached the limit of their exploration, and that further training and equipment is necessary before continuing. While this simple sign has doubtlessly saved many divers from getting into trouble, most divers are explorers and risk- takers by nature and the well- meaning sign is occasionally viewed with a slight resentment. However, cavern divers usually find more to explore than is possible in a single dive and are quick to continue searching the cavern zone. One object of curiosity usually encountered is the diver habitat. This large box- type structure was placed by cave divers needing a place to “rest” after extended dives in the cave system, and allows those divers a temporarily air pocket where they can rest and communicate during long decompression stops. Cavern divers usually look the habitat over for a few moments before returning to their explorations of the rocks and crevices. In addition to light and linear distance limits cavern divers also follow the “rule of thirds” when it comes to air consumption; one- third of the available air supply going in, one- third for coming out, and the last for emergencies or contingencies. This rule of thirds usually limits a cavern dive in Roubidoux Springs to a time of around twenty minutes, which also makes multiple dives desirable. Air fills and other sundries are available at Odyssey Scuba, so divers have a place to enjoy between dives should they choose to leave the springs area. If you are cave or cavern certified, you won’t want to miss the underwater beauty and adventure of Roubidoux Springs! For more information, or to arrange a cavern dive, contact Odyssey Scuba & Travel on their website at http://www.moscuba.com, or call them at (573) 774-DIVE (3483). A single visit to Waynesville, Pulaski County, and Roubidoux Springs will only prove one thing; a single visit simply isn’t enough!

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Hitchhikers Guide To Carroll Cave- NSS 2015 Convention

by Jeff Page (45699RL)
Carroll Cave Conservancy (CCC) Membership & Access Chair

On behalf the Carroll Cave Conservancy, I’d like to encourage one and all to come to this year’s convention in beautiful Pulaski County, Missouri. We look forward to making new friends and reconnecting with some old ones. In the February issue of NSS News, it was announced that Carroll Cave is the “crown jewel” of the convention. We couldn’t agree more and are eager to share this jewel with as many convention attendees as possible. In the guidebook, we’ll delve deeper into the rich history of the cave and current exploration efforts. For now, we’d like to make a brief introduction to CCC and the role we’ll play at convention.

Carroll Cave. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Carroll Cave. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Who we are: CCC is the brain child of Rick Hines (37511RE) who has several contributions to NSS News under his belt. Rick first explored Carroll in 1970, assisting pioneering cave photographer Andy Kramer and others on trips in the cave. It was not until the early 1990s that Rick was able to pursue his dream of exploring and photographing this incredible cave. But by that time, relations between the owners of the natural entrance and the caving community had gone sour and the entrance was off limits. Not to be deterred, Rick studied maps and introduced himself to area landowners, eventually securing a sinkhole on grazing land that looked to be a promising place to dig into the cave. Upon recruiting others who had a passion for Carroll, digging began in 1995 with the expectation of a new entrance in short order. But, as Rick puts it, “it was not to be. Due to safety concerns, the sinkhole dig was reluctantly abandoned after five years and over 1000 man-days of digging. A new approach was needed. In the interim, the conservancy was chartered. A vertical shaft through the solid rock was blasted during a nine month period beginning November 2000. Carroll had a new entrance. Carroll cavers had new life!

Over the ensuing years, CCC maintains an active membership roster of about 80 people, making us one of the larger caving groups in the state. We are not a Grotto, but draw members from Grottoes in Missouri and surrounding states. CCC does not own any land above the cave, but leases a one acre plot where we’ve dug our entrance. Membership is required to access Carroll through this entrance. During convention, we’ll waive membership requirements, but will ask all who enter to sign the landowner waiver (and we certainly won’t discourage anyone from joining). Our main mission is to manage and maintain this entrance, stay in the good graces of our landowner and secure the orderly exploration of this cave which has proven to be so elusive. In addition to the ongoing survey work, CCC conducts regular biology inventories, hydrology monitoring, restoration projects, photography trips and trips for landowners’ families and friends to enhance their appreciation of their natural resources. We’ve also conducted joint cave rescue training with local fire district personnel.

Research at Carroll Cave in central Missouri. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Research at Carroll Cave in central Missouri. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Carroll is home to a sizable maternal gray bat colony, along with solitary bats (Big Brown, Little Brown, Tri-color and more). The man-made entrance allows us to bypass their habitat at critical times when they would be disturbed by cavers coming through the natural entrance. Trips during Convention will be planned with the non-disturbance of bats in mind. We will, of course, observe WNS decontamination protocol for all cavers.

Carroll Cave is home to several types of bats. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Carroll Cave is home to several types of bats. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Carroll Cave is located about 25 miles from the convention site in neighboring Camden County. The cave is the second longest cave in Missouri and is a National Natural Landmark. We pledge to get as many as possible in the cave, without overburdening the highly sensitive environment. Some vertical gear will be needed- For the descent, standard rappel gear. For the ascent, we’ll climb a 120 foot ladder using a chest ascender for belay. No frog or rope walking necessary. Note: The ladder also has a steel cable running its length and we have some climbing devices for it. Some groups may use this system.

At the hatch of Carroll Cave. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

At the hatch of Carroll Cave. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

At the bottom of the ladder, climbing gear is stashed and it’s horizontal caving from then on. All groups should plan on getting wet, but with the possible exception of certain advanced trips, wet suits should not be necessary. Trips of varying levels of difficulty will be offered, all led by CCC members familiar with navigating the cave. The cave has three major trunk passages (Carroll River, Upper-Thunder and Lower Thunder River). The Back Door entrance comes into the cave near the intersection of these passages. Each day, trips will take different directions, lessening the impact on the cave. Every group should have the opportunity to visit Thunder Falls- Carroll Cave’s crown jewel. Other highlights that will be covered include Convention Hall, Conference Room, Flat Rock Falls, Carroll Passage, Angel Pool Passage, and the Rimstone Room.

Carroll Cave's Convention Hall. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Carroll Cave’s Convention Hall. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

If you’ve been on the fence about attending convention this year, we hope this brief intro will help bring you around. Carroll Cave trips will be announced May 1st, along with the other cave trips being offered for pre-registration during 2015 convention. Hope to see you in July!

*For more details on the creation of Carroll Cave’s “Back Door” please visit www.cavediggers.com Issue 1.

You can reach Jeff Page at pagejk@yahoo.com

To register for NSS 2015 please visit http://nss2015.caves.org/.

NSS Convention 2015 Logo

Rival To The Mammoth Cave of Kentucky – July 24, 1857

The following was published in the Sacramento Daily Union newspaper July 24, 1857.

RIVAL TO THE MAMMOTH CAVE OF KENTUCKY.

-We have been furnished the following description of a large cave, in Maries county, by M. Meyer Friede, of St. Louis, who explored it on the Thursday, the 14th ult. The cave is known by the name of the Big Saltpeter Cave:

The cave is in Maries County, 1 3/4 miles from the Gasconade River, on a creek called Cave Spring Creek, in township 38, section 21, range 9, west. He went to the cave, guided by Mr. R.H. Prewett, a young man, about 25 years old, who was born and raised about a quarter of a mile from the place.

In front of the entrance was a small stone house, which the old settlers thought was built by the Indians, but is now in ruins.

The entrance goes straight in the rock on a level with the surrounding surface rock, is about one hundred feet wide, and, in the center, about twenty-five feet high, arched. Messrs. Friede and Prewett entered the cave for near four hundred feet, where it narrows to about twenty-five feet wide and fifteen feet high, and presents the appearance of an ante-chamber; from there they passed into a large chamber, about one hundred feet in height, where three galleries branch off; they then passed into the left gallery, which ascends near twenty feet on a bed of saltpeter. This gallery is called the Dry Gallery, and is about five hundred feet in length; the height varies from one hundred to about thirty feet. The ceiling and sides are composed of solid rock. Near the end is a large round chamber which Mr. Prewett calls the ball-room, and that gentleman states that his father had given balls in the chamber frequently; the last was in the winter of 1850, at which time there were about eighteen or twenty persons there. They went in the morning and stopped all day, and arrived at home in the evening, cooking and eating their meals in their subterranean saloon, and had a merry time of it.

This article about Big Saltpeter Cave in Maries County, Missouri,  was published in the Sacramento Daily Union Friday morning, July 24, 1857. The 2015 National Speleological Society Convention will be held July 13- 17, 2015 in neighboring Pulaski County. Waynesville, the host location, and county seat of Pulaski, is the heart of Missouri's cave country.

This article about Big Saltpeter Cave in Maries County, Missouri, was published in the Sacramento Daily Union Friday morning, July 24, 1857. The 2015 National Speleological Society Convention will be held July 13- 17, 2015 in neighboring Pulaski County. Waynesville, the host location, and county seat of Pulaski, is the heart of Missouri’s cave country.

After exploring this chamber, they retraced their steps and passed into the right branch (or fork) of the cave, where they ascended a rise of about twelve feet, and entered another gallery, the end of which is not known; they, however, explored it about three-fourths of a mile.

Mr. Prewett states that he has been in this gallery over two miles, and did not get to the end of it. In this gallery, the dropping of the water has formed stalactites of the most beautiful conceptions- statues of men and animals, and large columns, supporting the most beautiful arches, form the ceiling, which is from fifty to one hundred feet high, and forms several chambers of various sizes. The ceiling is decorated with different groups of spar, forming a variety of figures which represent the inside of a cathedral. The size of some of these chambers is about forty feet wide by over one hundred high, and looks like rooms in some feudal castle.

They were afraid their lights would give out, and therefore they retraced their steps to the main chamber, from which they ascended the middle gallery, where a large stream of clear water issues from the interior of the cave, and has a fall of about six feet, and falls in several round marble basins. The water has a pleasant taste. The water flows all he year round, without variation, in sufficient volume to drive a mill.

They ascended the galleries and found themselves in several beautiful chambers , leading from one to the other, in which, however, they did not penetrate to more than six hundred feet.

There is a strong draft of air setting in from the entrance. Inside of the cave the atmosphere was mild.

These chambers are of unusual height and extent.

They went in at 1 o’clock, and emerged from the cave at half past 3. —Jefferson City (Mo.) Inquirer

The 2015 NSS Convention "Hitchhikers Guide To Missouri Caving" logo includes Missouri cave diving in its design.

The 2015 NSS Convention “Hitchhikers Guide To Missouri Caving” logo includes Missouri cave diving in its design.

The 2015 National Speleological Society Convention will be held July 13- 17, 2015 in Pulaski County, Missouri. Waynesville, the host location, and county seat of Pulaski, is the heart of Missouri’s cave country.

To learn more about National Speleological Society visit: http://www.caves.org
To learn more about things to see and do in Pulaski County, Missouri visit: http://www.PulaskiCountyUSA.com

Follow us on Twitter! @NSS2015 and @PulCoUSA

Stay connected with Pulaski County Tourism Bureau on Facebook & Twitter!

Stay connected with Pulaski County Tourism Bureau on Facebook & Twitter!

Early Roubidoux Spring Cave Exploration

The state of Missouri is a hidden gem for cave & cavern scuba divers. Waynesville, the heart of Missouri cave country, is also home to Roubidoux Spring. Roubidoux Spring is a notable landmark freshwater spring. It is often mentioned as one of the best cave diving springs in the country and is routinely allowed to QUALIFIED and certified cavern or cave divers. ALL DIVERS must register with Waynesville Police Department (573.774.2414) before entering.

Roubidoux Spring at Laughlin Park in Waynesville, MO. Image courtesy of Connie Feighery. The underwater cave at Rouibidoux Spring is a favorite dive location in Missouri for certified cave divers.

Roubidoux Spring at Laughlin Park in Waynesville, MO. Image courtesy of Connie Feighery.

The following article was published in “History Pulaski County Missouri, Vol. II, 1987”. Special thanks to Pulaski County Museum and Historical Society for allowing us to share it here.

“Roubidoux Spring
Summary of Exploration thru Sept. 18, 1977

Prior to September 1977 several people had made relatively short penetrations into the upper level passage of Roubidoux Spring- Carlson, Delaney, Rimbach, and Tatalovich.

During the summer of 1977, Carlson and Delaney made several dives to the limits of the then known passage in an effort to extend penetration. Their maximum penetration was 425 feet and a maximum depth of 120 feet.

On September 3, 1977 Miller and Fogarty made their first dive in Roubidoux Spring. They reached the end of the Carson-Delaney line, found the lower level passage, and added 570 feet of line for a total penetration of 995 feet. The lower level passage runs at an average depth of 140 feet and ranges from 5 feet high and 12 feet wide to 20 feet high and 50 feet wide. On the afternoon of September 3, Miller and Fogarty made a second dive and added another 435 feet. The new penetration was 1430 feet. The passage size, direction, and depth were holding a relatively constant at termination.

A cave diver at Roubidoux Spring in Waynesville in Pulaski County, Missouri.

A cave diver at Roubidoux Spring in Waynesville in Pulaski County, Missouri.

September 4, 1977: Miller and Fogarty made a survey trip into the lower level, starting at the end of the Carlson-Delaney line surveying 535 feet. They also removed 35 feet of line to center line in the passage.
A minor decompression accident occurred on this dive causing Miller to be hospitalized for a short period. This delayed further exploration for two weeks.

September 17, 1977: Miller and Fogarty pushed to the end of the line in Whichaway Ave. and started adding line. They immediately entered the “Big Room”, which is 40 feet high and 80 feet wide, depth on the floor was a constant 160 feet. The floor was smooth hard silt with very little breakdown in contrast to the floor in Whichaway Ave. which is all porous breakdown. 225 feet of line was added, making a total penetration of 1620 feet from the entrance and a maximum depth of 160 feet. The Big Room was remaining constant at the termination of the dive.

September 18, 1977: Miller and Fogarty made a survey dive and routinely surveyed the back part of Whichaway Ave.

September 18, 1977: Miller and Fogarty made a survey trip on the Carson-Delaney section of the line, completing the survey of the known passage.

On each dive into the lower level passage blind cave crawfish and blind fish were sighted. No more than three of each were ever sighted on a given dive and their size seemed to be small.”

Exploration of Roubidoux Spring Cave has progressed since this survey was done in 1977.

Exploration of Roubidoux Spring Cave has progressed since this survey was done in 1977.

This survey from 1997 shows two areas, "Room O' The Endless Line" and "Big Cave Country" that were not known at the time of the 1977 survey. This image has been altered to highlight these additions. For the complete map visit http://cavdvr.tripod.com/images/roubmap.jpg.

This survey from 1997 shows two areas, “Room O’ The Endless Line” and “Big Cave Country” that were not known at the time of the 1977 survey. This image has been altered to highlight these additions. For the complete map visit http://cavdvr.tripod.com/images/roubmap.jpg.

The 2008 Old Settlers Gazette, published by Old Stagecoach Stop Museum & Foundation, features an article and historical photographs of Roubidoux Spring. It can be read in its entirety at: http://www.oldstagecoachstop.org/webgeezer/Gazette08/TheBigSpring.pdf

Roubidoux Spring Cave will be offered during the National Speleological Society (NSS) Convention, hosted in Waynesville, Missouri July 13 -17, 2015.

The 2015 NSS Convention "Hitchhikers Guide To Missouri Caving" logo includes Missouri cave diving in its design.

The 2015 NSS Convention “Hitchhikers Guide To Missouri Caving” logo includes Missouri cave diving in its design.

Stay connected with Pulaski County Tourism Bureau & Visitors Center by visiting our website (www.PulaskiCountyUSA.com) liking our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/PulaskiCountyUSA) or following us on Twitter! (twitter.com/PulCoUSA)

Stay connected with Pulaski County Tourism Bureau on Facebook & Twitter!

Stay connected with Pulaski County Tourism Bureau on Facebook & Twitter!