Bowden Cave

The Collapse

by Doug McCarty


(These photos were taken before the collapsed area was closed and barricaded.)


On Sunday, April 21, 2002, Kenny Petrice was leading a party of people through Bowden Cave. When they were almost at the end of the watercourse, they heard a huge noise that sounded like the cave was collapsing. They got out as quickly as they could. Kenny contacted me and told me that part of Arnie's Attic had come down and blocked the cave and that the area had "shifted". 


On the following Saturday, April 26, Jason Thomas, Rich Finley and I went to Bowden to take pictures and try to ascertain exactly what had occurred. We decided it would be prudent to approach it from behind, so we went in the Third Entrance. When we arrived at the place where you used to climb up into the Up and Over, it didn't look too bad. The hole that you used to have to climb through was blocked and there was a five foot high mound of clay and moderately sized rocks.


The mound of clay and rocks.


The arrow points to where you used to climb up into the Up and Over


We went back out the Third Entrance and went around to the Main Entrance and cautiously went back to the end of the Water Course. At first glance we couldn't see that much had changed.  I had never liked the look of the ceiling in that section, but it was intact. There were some large rocks in the ceiling that some of us used to call "The Keystones" because it always looked like the whole ceiling would come down if just one of those stones came loose. The Keystones and the ceiling were just as they had always been.


This was an attempt to get a picture of the Keystones and the ceiling with Jason there for perspective. Unfortunately, the flash didn't illuminate the ceiling as I had hoped. Jason is sitting on the "Over" rock, that is, the rock you used to have to climb over to pass through that section. The picture below is a view from where Jason is sitting looking down toward what used to be the passage toward the back of the cave.



The arrow points to where you used to go through toward the back of the cave. Note the painted arrow.



A closer view of that same scene showing the rubble that didn't used to be there.


This is Jason looking down the stream passage. The water was flowing freely and this looked totally unchanged.


There was one section that all of us agreed looked majorly different, and that was the area pictured below with Rich checking things out. This passage is immediately to the right (looking into the cave) of where you used to climb up and over. 

The only evidence from above that anything had slipped or fallen was in a clay bank in Arnie's Attic, which was clearly (based on the color of the clay) where the clay and rock pile we found in the rear of this section came from. It is possibly the only thing that collapsed. The question is: did it collapse on its own or did falling rocks from above cause it to collapse. We could see no evidence of collapse above it, but our examination was cursory.


We put up warning signs and hoped to get some structural geologists to go back in there with us to help us figure out if anything other than the clay bank had collapsed. Before we could arrange to do so the word spread via the Internet and the cave was soon closed. A barricade was erected a year and a half later to keep people out of this area.. 

(To read a complete description of the Bowden Cave System written in 1971 by Mon Grotto members Ray Garton and Dan Nigh, press here.)

Too see pictures of a fairly recent rockfall click here


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