April 18, 2016

Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho
Waking up and leaving at around 4am to get into Idaho reminded me of going to Indiana for the weekend to go caving from Chicago but instead of visiting some limestone caves, Laura and I are out headed to visit the second largest lava tube cave on the continental United States, Gypsum Cave. 
Laura Sangaila in Gypsum Cave, Idaho

Lava Tube caves are a bit different in the way they are formed where lava flows cool and subsurface lava continues to flow until the flow of lava decreases leaving a hardened chamber tube that can extend for miles in some situations.
Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho

The lower viscosity lava flow can form the ceiling and create a baseline to a lava tube cave near the surface where lava is flowing.  Some of the bigger tube passages might be indicators of where the eruption could have started as large long tubes usually can start where the lava came to the surface.  Gypsum cave might have been near the eruption radius and might have been one of the main conduits for lava flow which created this massive tube underground.

Gypsum Cave Lava Tube, Idaho
What is more interesting is that Dale Green, from Utah, brought ground penetrating radar with him on a survey and found that there were other tubes of similar length that were paralleling Gypsum Cave.
A Jack Rabbit that has been in the cave for 9 years in Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho (not much decay)
Gypsum Cave is around 2.6 miles in length which use to be the longest lava tube cave until a Lava Tube cave in Washington beat it out at 2.7 miles.

Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho
If there is a way to break into this parallel tube than that would make this tube one longest in the world.

Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho
Gypsum cave is unique in that it gypsum evaporating through veins and cracks in the cave that tarnish the walls white and create a mosaic of color in some of the sections of the cave.  The cave itself is very dry and dusty so it can help to bring a mask in some of the sections of the cave.
Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho
We met up with Steve Frye and some of the cavers from the Silver Sage Grotto in Idaho to visit these Lava Tube caves and what a treat it was to see this cave!
Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho
Officially we were in the cave to conduct a bat count and to collect specimens for study.  
Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho
We were able to obtain the key and visit this cave through the DNR and the Silver Sage Grotto is apart of the development and conservation efforts that protect these caves from WNS and vandals that might want to break into the lava tubes.
Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho

We enter this cave and go through a crawl which eventually opens up into walking passage.  over 90 percent of the cave is walking passage with ceiling reaching 20-25ft at times.
Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho

we continued to walk through this passage snapping some photos and understanding a bit more about the caves nature and how the Silver Sage Grotto protects these caves.
Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho
Stacy and Jeremy discussed with me how they have helped with gating the entrances to some caves and how the Grotto continues to maintain a good relationship with the DNR in order to protect the states caves from WNS and other intruders.  It was good to hear about the working relationship between the Grotto and the DNR.

Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho
We went onto a side passage and moved over to the chocolate room which required some stoop walking and crawling but took us to a room with some interesting folded walls and cracked floors that resembled chocolate on the floor.  

Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho
we continued on and worked our way back into the main conduit and continued until we got the end of the cave. We passed some interesting sections of cave and at times the floor was covered in a cream colored volcanic ash which was a couple inches high at time.
Steve Frye in Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho

This cave was really interesting and it was a pleasure to go with a dedicated group of cavers from the Silver Sage Grotto.  We are looking forward to coming back in the near future and visiting a few more of the hundreds of documented lava tube caves in the region.
Laura in Gypsum Lava Tube Cave, Idaho


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