photo by John Lovaas

Conservation and Restoration Activities
at Coldwater Cave

The path no longer taken; mud from visitor traffic is removed from long-hidden flowstone in the mainstream section of the cave. Photo: J. Lovaas

After 30+ years of visitation, the most heavily traveled places in the cave were showing the impact. In 1997, under the direction of Chris Beck, the Coldwater Project began restoration work in various parts of the cave. Chris has extensive experience with restoration in Carlsbad Caverns and in Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico. Trails have been flagged to help tired or new cavers in avoiding formations and passage features, and to minimize and contain the impact of foot travel. Flowstone and formation areas have been carefully cleaned of footprints and handprints and then flagged. Broken formations have been repaired. Sensitive areas continue to be monitored and restoration work takes place in any area that needs it. We recognize our impact on the cave and are making the best efforts to minimize it.

photo by Ed Klausner
Before and after a stray handprint is removed from a formation
Photo: E. Klausner

Restoration work is conducted in areas of the cave that require it. Annual restoration trips are conducted to various places in the cave to maintain the flagged trails, to identify and flag sensitive areas and to flag additional trails where necessary. Cleaning and repair of flowstone and speleothems is conducted on an as needed basis.

Exploration ethics within the Project have developed a conservation facet. All efforts are made to avoid damaging delicate areas during exploration and survey. If areas of promise contain sensitive sections, every attempt is made to find alternate routes or other methods that would allow exploration and minimize impact. There are a few places in the cave where the decision was made that conservation of cave resources was more important that pursuing an exploration objective to its bitter end.

Photodocumentation has been conducted to record important features in the system. Photo monitoring of regularly visited areas is done annually to assess impact and to make management recommendations.

photo by Scott Dankof

Chris Beck and Mike Nelson repairing a broken stalactite. Sections of PVC tubing were used as a 'tripod' brace to steady the formation as the epoxy cement cured. Photo: S. Dankof

photo by Scott Dankof
Chris Beck repairing a broken drapery in the Monument Passage. The formation was sutured together with stainless steel wire while the epoxy cement cured. After curing, the sutures were removed, and the small holes drilled for the sutures were filled with a color matched grout, using the calcite left over from the drilling process. Photo: M. Jones

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