Caves I’ve visited

One of the natural features I often enjoy visiting on my travels are caves. I’m not a caver, but I seem to find myself in many places that have caves and cave tours, and it’s rare for me to pass up an opportunity to explore yet another one. In fact, I’ve been to more than 20 of them—including most of the public caves in the National Park System. In no particular order, here’s the list:

  • Bear Gulch Cave, Pinnacles National Monument (California)
  • Crystal Cave, Sequoia National Park (California)
  • Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
  • Russell Cave National Monument (Alabama)
  • Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)
  • Peppersauce Cave (Arizona)
  • Fort Stanton Cave, Ft Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (New Mexico)
  • Timpanogos Cave National Monument (Utah)
  • Jewel Cave National Monument (South Dakota)
  • Lehman Cave, Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
  • Kartchner Caverns State Park (Arizona)
  • Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark (County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland)
  • Sea Lion Caves (Oregon)
  • Grand Canyon Caverns (Arizona)
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)
  • Colossal Cave (Arizona)
  • Mitchell Cavern, Providence Mountains State Rec Area (California)
  • Lava tubes, Lava Beds National Monument (California)
  • Oregon Caves National Monument (Oregon)
  • Lava tube near Flagstaff (Arizona)
  • Lava tubes, El Malpais National Monument (New Mexico)
  • Lava tubes, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Idaho)
  • Lava tube, Mojave National Preserve (California)
  • Thurston Lava Tube, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)

The links above are to photos I’ve taken at each place—though mind you, it’s not always easy to take good snapshots inside a cave. I have several more albums to post, and I’ll update the links once I get those photos up.

My favorite caves include Carlsbad Caverns (there really isn’t one that can compare to it), Kartchner Caverns (Arizona’s best state park), and the Sea Lion Caves (great childhood memory and my only sea cave). I enjoy the occasional lava river tube, but I’ve seen enough of them now that each new one is less and less exciting. Of all of them, I think I was most disappointed with the world’s longest: Mammoth Cave. I attribute that to high expectations and the fact that we took a 4-mile, 4.5 hour tour where we only saw great formations in the last 200 yards or so. Several of these caves are less than spectacular, but still make for a fun stop if you’re driving by.

I have the distinct pleasure of working with the folks at the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project on the Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (an area of the National Conservation Lands) and there’s some great science happening there.

Note that several of  these parks—particularly the ones with lava tube formations—have several separate caves that I’ve wandered through, but I’m only counting them as one for this list.

What’s your favorite cave? Which one should be on my list?

National Conservation Lands video on Assignment: Earth

Here’s a great little video describing America’s National Conservation Lands, the system of special places I work to protect.

To support the great people working hard to protect America’s natural and cultural heritage, please check out the Conservation Lands Foundation.

Celebrate 10 years of Ironwood Forest National Monument this Saturday

This Saturday, I’m headed down towards Tucson for what is sure to be a great event. The Friends of Ironwood Forest are hosting a celebration marking the 10-year anniversary of Ironwood Forest National Monument and the National Conservation Lands (also known by its more cumbersome name, the National Landscape Conservation System).

There’s still time to get in on the event—you can even register online.

Ironwood Forest National Monument is one of those places that you may not have been to—or even heard of, for that matter—but which protects important aspects of what makes Arizona great, from the classic Sonoran Desert saguaro forests to rugged desert mountain views to prehistoric ruins and historic artifacts.

So come join us on Saturday. You’ll learn more about makes Ironwood Forest National Monument worthy of protection and you’ll hear about some inspiring work the local Friends of Ironwood Forest are doing.

Here’s the event press release:

Local Volunteers to Mark 10th Anniversary of Ironwood Forest

Congressman Grijalva and Noted Author to Take Part in Celebration

Wednesday, June 2, Tucson, AZ — Friends of Ironwood Forest will host the official 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Ironwood Forest National Monument on Saturday, June 5th from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m, with special guests Congressman Raul Grijalva and noted Sonoran Desert author Gary Nabhan.

The Monument is part of the National Landscape Conservation System, a collection of some of the country’s most scenic, historic, natural and cultural sites known as the National Conservation Lands.  Friends of Ironwood Forest, a local volunteer-based, non-profit group, provides critical support to protect and promote the Monument while working to educate the public about its extraordinary natural treasures.

Ironwood Forest, located 25 miles northwest of Tucson in southern Arizona, was created in 2000 to protect the amazing cultural and biological resources found in the area.  The Monument contains more than 129,000 acres of Sonoran Desert habitat and includes the Silver Bell, Sawtooth and Waterman Mountain Ranges.  Named for the unique desert Ironwood tree, the site has an astounding diversity of plant and animal life.

Ironwood Forest NM is an example of the many places within the National Conservation Lands that are home to rare plants and animals and Native American sites.  These lands offer a national connection to the last places where one can experience the history and beauty of the American West.

Ironwood’s 10th anniversary celebration will be held at the Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, 4949 W. Heritage Club Blvd., Marana, AZ 85658.  For more information on Friends of Ironwood Forest and the anniversary event, visit www.ironwoodforest.org.

Perry Mesa exhibit at Pueblo Grande Museum

Here’s a great opportunity to learn more about Agua Fria National Monument without making the drive up there.

From the BLM:

BLM Partners with Museum, ASU, and Tonto National Forest on Perry Mesa Exhibit:
Agua Fria National Monument staff have been working with the Pueblo Grande Museum, Arizona State University (ASU) researchers, Tonto National Forest officials, and others to help develop a Museum exhibit about Perry Mesa. Perry Mesa is the dominant geographic feature in the Agua Fria National Monument. The 50,000-acre Perry Mesa National Register District, which spans the Monument and part of the adjacent Tonto National Forest, was designated to recognize the significance and extent of the archaeology on Perry Mesa. Originally designated in 1975, the District was expanded in 1996 and is now one of the largest prehistoric districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The exhibit will highlight the history, ecology, rock art “petroglyphs,” artifacts, and pueblo ruins in the area, and their connections to the entire central Arizona landscape and other cultures. The nearly 3,000 square foot exhibit opens March 5, 2010, and will be on display for one year at the Pueblo Grande Museum.

Free tour of Ironwood Forest National Monument—Mar 20

Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument

Friends of Ironwood Forest and the Bureau of Land Management invite you to a

Free Tour of the Ironwood Forest National Monument
on Saturday, March 20

Spend a day in one of southern Arizona’s most treasurered landscapes as we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Ironwood Forest National Monument. Throughout the tour, BLM speakers and resource specialists will share the history and cultural heritage within the Monument, as well as highlight the diverse vegetation and wildlife surrounding the Ironwood trees, for which the Monument was named. Limited seats available; please register by March 8.

Schedule of activities

Saturday, March 20, 2010
8 a.m. – Meet at Cortaro Rd. & I-10 Park and Ride Lot. Exit 246.
9:30 a.m. – Visit base of Ragged Top
11:30 a.m. – Depart for lunch and desert hike.
12 p.m. – Lunch (Bring your own), then desert hike OR drive to historic Silver Bell Cemetary (45 minute drive).
3:30 p.m. – Arrive at Cortaro Rd. & I-10 Park and Ride.

Directions and transportation

Free transportation from Park & Ride will be provided. From Tucson, take I-10 west. Take exit 246 and turn west (left) at N. Cortaro Rd. Your first right enters into the McDonald’s parking lot and the park and ride.

Register now

Click here to register for this free event. Tour size is limited and filling quickly. [update: the tour is full, but there is a waiting list; you can also ask about additional opportunities to tour the Monument from Lahsha below]

For more information

Lahsha Brown
Friends of Ironwood Forest
lahsha@ironwoodforest.org
520-628-2092

IFNM 10th Anniversary Tour Invitation

Restore a native grassland and an historic trail this weekend

There are two great volunteer opportunities this week in National Conservation Lands here in Arizona. If you have some time, please consider getting involved. Check out the Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona to register.

Las Cienegas NCA Road Closure and Restoration Weekend

Feb 19 – Feb 21

Experience a lush desert grassland just an hour southeast of Tucson in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. We will be out there closing and re-habilitating roads identified by the BLM in the Resource Management Plan for closure.

Work will include using hand tools to break up and re-vegetate the road surface. There are a variety of tasks available from light planting work to heavy lifting and shoveling. Sky Island Alliance will provide the training and materials needed to do the field work. You will need to bring everything you need for 2 days/nights of car camping. Everyone is responsible for his or her own meals and you are welcome to use our stove set up and/or grill. Don’t forget the basics such as food, water, rain gear, tent and a sleeping bag. Another option is just come out to help for one day (Saturday). Please send a response email for further information. Schedule: Friday -meet in camp in the pm, somebody from SIA will be there by 5pm Saturday -work all day, campfire at night Sunday -work through the afternoon and then head home by 2 or 3 pm.

Difficulty Rating: Moderate
Minimum Age: None
Age Group: All Ages
Max Group Size: 1
Volunteers Needed: 20
Contact Person: Sarah Williams
sarah@skyislandalliance.org 520-624-7080 x23

Historic Anza Trail Restoration in Sonoran Desert National Monument

Feb 20, 2010

Anza Trail Coalition, Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona Wilderness Coalition and the Sierra Club are sponsoring this event to have volunteers restore a portion of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail that was damaged by off-road vehicle use within Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Volunteers will restore areas damaged by off-road vehicle use. The restoration work will include digging, scraping, and raking to breakup compacted soils and obliterate vehicle tracks. The work requires the use of basic hand tools designed for trail maintenance—Pulaski, McCleod, steel-tined rake, and shovel. Work difficulty ranges from easy to challenging. There will be some native plant relocation activities. Volunteers are advised to wear sturdy shoes and dress appropriately for working outdoors. Please bring work gloves and a water bottle or canteen. There will be campsites available for those to choose to camp. A volunteer information sheet and map are available.

Difficulty Rating: Moderately Easy
Minimum Age: None
Age Group: All Ages
Max Group Size: 10
Volunteers Needed: 50
Contact Person: Thomas Hulen
thom@sonorandesertfriends.org (602) 619-9717