Saturday, March 17, 2007

[trip] Bennett Cave Survey

This month, the Tucker County Speleological Survey had a huge turnout - Kevin Keplinger, Brian Masney, Dave Riggs, Justin Keplinger, Doug Bell, Jesse Miller, Josh Flaugher, John Harman and Doug McCarty all showed up even though the roads were covered with snow and ice. Thanks to the incredible hospitality of the landowners, we were permitted to survey Bennett Cave, and were given a warm, dry place to change clothes - thanks very much!

The entrance to Bennett Cave is a six foot deep crevice opening in a small limestone outcrop in the middle of a valley wall. A muddy talus slope leads down into a large entrance room with dimensions roughly 45x25 feet, and a height of up to 20 feet. A free-climbable twisted pit leads down to a lower room of about 10 foot in diameter with a 15 foot ceiling. The entrance slope and climbdown are both littered with broken glass, discarded small appliances, and animal remains. A 100' rope rigged outside the entrance serves as a useful handline for exploring the cave.

Josh Flaugher in the entrance to Bennett Cave. Photo by Brian Masney.

From this lower room, a very tight pinch in the floor leads to a low, wide crawl, which then opens up into breakdown into another large room. This breakdown-floored room is 45x35 feet, and up to 25 feet tall. To the right, one may climb down through breakdown to a chamber featuring a pair of 20 foot tall waterfalls. One waterfall is rigged with rope, and has going passage at the top. The waterfall room appears to be formed along a small fault or angular unconformity. To the left, one may follow the trunk stream passage, up to 8 foot in diameter, for over 200 feet. The floor is lined with large cobbles and the stream meanders back and forth, eventually disappearing under the right wall. Two high leads go in opposite directions at the end of the dry stream passage, as another small infeeder joins the passage.

Brian Masney, Johsh Flaugher, John Harman, and Jesse Miller at the base of the left waterfall. Photo by John Harman.

Right waterfall showing possible fault from upper left to lower right. Photo by John Harman.

We split up into two survey teams, with one team surveying the upper passages, and my team starting below. Our (lower) team thought that we had gotten the short end of the stick as we surveyed through a steep, tight pinch and into very low passage. However, as soon as we broke into the lower big room and saw the two waterfalls and booming trunk passage, we were all completely elated! Combined, our groups surveyed over 400 feet of passage in the two levels of the cave. We will return next month to complete the survey, mopping up the two leads at the end of the stream passage and the lead atop the waterfall.

Josh Flaugher in the lower stream trunk. Photo by Brian Masney.

Bennett Cave is located on private property and is CLOSED for recreational caving. The Tucker County Speleological Survey has been granted permission explicitly to survey this cave.

See also: Brian Masney's photos, John Harman's photos.

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