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How to get started caving

Bill Steele started caving as a Scout almost 50 years ago, and since then, he has explored hundreds of caves throughout the United States and in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and China. He has written books on caving and appeared on TV shows such as National Geographic Explorer, NOVA and How’d They Do That?

In this video, Steele describes his journey into the world of caving and talks about some of the amazing things he’s seen underground.

When asked to recommend the best places for a beginning caver, this is what Steele said: “Start with my favorite easily accessible show (tourist) caves listed here. I recommend going on a ‘wild’ caving trip at a show cave. They have the helmets, lights and guides to keep it safe and interesting.

Here are five of Steele’s favorite caves for beginners:



Where: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, N.M.

When to Go: Anytime

Claim to Fame: The caverns were discovered by a 16-year-old cowboy, Jim White, who thought he saw smoke — but it actually was bats flying out of the entrance. In season (mid-April to late October), 17 species of bats live at the park.

Fun Facts: The caverns contain a giant room that measures 4,000 feet by 625 feet and 255 fee high.

Caver’s Secret: The original explorers were lowered into the entrance in a large bucket.



Where: Mammoth Cave National Park, Ky.

When to Go: Anytime

Claim to Fame: As the longest cave in the world — more than 400 miles — Mammoth Cave has been explored for 200 years, and uncharted passages are still being found.

Fun Facts: One of the original explorers of it was a slave named Stephen Bishop who was owned by the man who owned the cave.

Caver’s Secret: Native Americans explored far into Mammoth Cave looking for certain minerals they could trade.



Where: Wind Cave National Park, S.D.

When to Go: Anytime

Claim to Fame: Due to changes in barometric pressure, strong winds blow through the cave. The strongest measured were more than 70 mph.

Fun Facts: Located in the Black Hills, it’s the sixth-longest cave in the world, at 140 miles.

Caver’s Secret: The cave is still actively being explored.



Where: McMinnville, Tenn.

When to Go: Anytime

Claim to Fame: The monthly Bluegrass Underground concert series is recorded live on the caverns’ underground stage.

Fun Facts: Scouts can get a “Spelunker” patch at the caverns.

Caver’s Secret: The caverns are still being explored.



Where: Near Bedford, Ind.

When to Go: October through April

Claim to Fame: The cave contains deep water and offers a boat ride.

Fun Facts: Pure-white fish and crayfish that are blind live in the cave.

Caver’s Secret: You can camp overnight here.

7 Comments on How to get started caving

  1. Are there any locations in or near South Carolina? We’re trying to set up three day trips for the calendar year.

  2. Party Pants // August 3, 2014 at 9:57 am // Reply

    Looks cool and fun!😄

  3. Hey, THE best place to start caving is at Whirlpool Cave!!!!!
    Go for beginners and the most experienced cavers! Why I’ve even taken classes from the SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND caving at WP! Ya just can’t beat it, there’s room to move and learn and play. Room to explore and so much more…

  4. Most likely going to bluespring caverns!!!!

  5. Vince_&_Jessi // July 28, 2014 at 11:38 am // Reply

    Our planed trip to Penn’s cave became more and more exciting after reading My Favorite Caves in Aug14 issue. We had a blast and learned there are over 150 caves in the Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania. So far we explored 2 and one more on the list!

  6. In South Dakota, Rushmore Cave and Jewel Cave are also cool too.

  7. I have been in the Carlsbad Cavans and they are spectacular.

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