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  • Doug Cook

Caving Safely in Oklahoma

I’ve had the pleasure of guiding Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in Oklahoma’s caves since 1998.  Over the years, I have taken pictures at the entrances of caves.  All three images here were taken at the entrance to Bear Cave in 2002, 2010 and 2014.

In recent years, Oklahoma has seen increases in earthquake activity.  A recent cluster near Alabaster Caverns had me review some of those photos.

Bear Cave Alabaster Caverns June 26 2010

My most recent trip on September 28, 2014 revealed more rockfalls than I had seen on previous outings.

Evidence of a recent rockfall is visible in the bottom photo below.  See the white dusting in the upper right hand corner of the image.  Alabaster Caverns is a gypsum cave so broken rock has the same color and texture as broken drywall – its the same material that makes up each.

An earthquake cluster located 8 to 10 miles south / southeast of the caverns developed in October days after our last visit.

Woodward County Earthquake maps fall 2014

Caving safety procedures include checking the weather maps to make sure that flash floods won’t develop during the time of our outings.  Both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA have established safety guidelines in addition that scout leaders follow.

Another resource leaders should add is to check the USGS Earthquake maps for 30 days or more in the area you plan your activity.

On the day of this post, a 4.8 magnitude centered near Conway Springs Kansas was felt hundreds of miles away in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Weatherford and Woodward.   Wild caving in Alabaster Caverns shuts down between October 1 through March 30 for bat hibernation season so only the big cave guided tours would have been at risk.  Leaders should consider the risks of leading youth groups in caves when an earthquake cluster is underway.

Scoops 2009 Group Photo Hoe Handle e

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