Friday, November 10, 2017

A Trip to Ozark Caves in Arkansas

We're going to take a trip out of the desert for this post. In mid-October I headed to northwest Arkansas. For the first few days, I was at beautiful Blanchard Springs Caverns, an amazing US Forest Service (USFS) show cave. It has huge passageways and huge speleothems. It also has amazing cave biota, including at least two kinds of cave salamanders, plus isopods, pseudoscorpions, and more. 

The reason I was there was to assist with a USFS video for CavesLIVE. This is an educational project, and in mid-February, a free video will be available on their website. In mid-March, there will be a live question and answer session. It's geared towards grades 4-8, but anyone is welcome to view the video and check out all the resources on the website. Plus, You might recognize someone in the video! 

The video was filmed by a professional film company, but most of us definitely weren't professional actors! Fortunately there was a teleprompter and the crew was very friendly. Below are two friends in Tyvek suits ready to do the hydrology part of the filming where they put some dye into a spring. I loved how the yellow stood out!

We had filming in various parts outside and inside the cave.  It was great to get to know these ladies better and everyone else involved.

It was really interesting observing the filming process. We filmed the opening and closing the first day. The next two days it was the middle parts. We hoped we had good continuity!

Next it was on to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for the National Cave and Karst Management Symposium. Eureka Springs is an interesting town, built there because of its 60+ springs, which were thought to have medicinal healing value. Now they are all polluted and you shouldn't drink from any of them. It's still a gorgeous place, and I made it a point to get out and run every morning so I could do some sightseeing.

This little free library was so cute.

A Carnegie librarie. There was moss growing on rocks and building stones everywhere. It was so different than the desert!

The Catholic Church up on the hill.

 We had a field trip one day, and I chose to go on the geology trip down the Buffalo National River, the first national river in the U.S. It's 135 miles of free-flowing water. We just saw a few miles.

We visited a couple shelter caves, saw awesome fossils, and learned more about some of the issues facing the river. Here I am with my paddling partner.

A little more view of the river.

And some friends paddling in to the take-out spot.

Eureka Springs is very hilly, and the Crescent Hotel is up at the top. Sunrise one morning...

I found the trail network near Harmon Park and surprised these deer.

And there are hidden secrets all over.

CaveSim came. This is a trailer with a simulated cave in it. What makes it extra special is that there are sensors in the speleothems and cave critters. Anytime you touch one, the sensor records it. Your goal is to go through the cave without touching anything fragile and as fast as you can. It is so much fun! We're hoping Great Basin National Park might be able to get one to take to various places and teach about cave conservation.

The keynote speaker was Tom Aley, a longtime caver and hydrologist from Ozark Underground Laboratory. He spoke about the history of NCKMS and also related some entertaining tales, such as a house in a cave that leaked a lot. Hmm, go figure.
It was an enjoyable getaway to a part of the country I had never visited before. I did feel a little claustrophobic with all the trees around. And everything was so wet and moldy! I actually missed the desert dryness. But it was a great place to visit, and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity.

If you're every heading to Arkansas, I highly recommend Blanchard Springs Caverns and the Buffalo National River.

Wherever you are, don't forget to check out the CavesLIVE websiteThe goal of CavesLIVE is to raise awareness and understanding of caves and karst - a resource that is seldom seen and considered mysterious - and connect it to people's everyday lives.

1 comment:

Ru Budhi said...

Sweet! Looks like another amazing adventure, some of which is preserved for education & posterity! Amanda

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