Cave Research Foundation
Cave Research Foundation Operation Areas
Most of Cave Research Foundation's work is conducted through five
different operations areas which operate primarily on state and
federal lands that contain caves and karst. Projects are done under a
nationwide Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department of the
Interior, a Memorandum of Agreement with Bureau of Land Management, or
through local working agreements depending on the requirements of each
There are multiple Operations Areas that focus on different areas of
the country. They are listed below. (Click on an area's
name for additional information).
CRF's Eastern Operations Area encompasses the area east of the
Mississippi River. The primary focus is the Mammoth Cave National
Park, where the Foundation has been mapping and studying the world's
longest cave since CRF's inception in 1957. The Foundation works
closely with Park management on numerous other projects of varying
length and complexity.
Eastern Operations also has projects in southwest Virginia at the
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and in the Monongahela National
Forest in West Virginia.
Eastern Operations Projects:
- Mammoth Cave Cartographic Program
- Chief Cartographer, Bob Osburn: The objectives of the cartographic
program are to collect detailed geographic data from the caves of
Mammoth Cave National Park, to produce cartographic interpretations of
the data in the form of various types of maps, and to incorporate that
data into a master data archive system. Copies of data and maps are
provided to the Division of Resource Management at Mammoth Cave
- Small Caves Inventory/Data Management
at Mammoth Cave National Park
- Project Coordinator, Bill Copeland: A cooperative program between CRF
and Mammoth Cave National Park carries out a comprehensive resource
inventory of less-extensive caves within the Park. Caves are located,
brass caps are installed, and locations are determined by Global
Positioning Satellite (GPS) equipment. The caves are mapped and data
about the contents, suitable for use with a geographic information
system (GIS), are recorded. An additional product of this study is a
separate database that contains general information about the cave.
- Cumberland Gap National Historical
Park (Gap Cave) Survey Project - Project
Coordinators, Bob Alderson and Charles Finney. CRF studies caves and
karst in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, an area rich in early
settler and Civil War history. Gap Cave is the largest cave in the
park. CRF is mapping Gap Cave and the other caves within the Park.
Another focus is on documenting the cultural resources inside the caves.
- Cave Hollow-Arbogast Cave Survey
Project - Project
Coordinator, Dave West. Cave Hollow-Arbogast Cave is a significant site
for endangered bats in Monongahela National Forest. In cooperation with
the United States Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the West
Virginia Department of Natural Resources, CRF and the West Virginia
Association of Speleological Studies are surveying the cave system to
provide an up to date map with supporting data.
- Ozark National Scenic Riverways (NPS -
- Missouri Department of Conservation (Missouri)
- Mark Twain National Forest, Pioneer Forest (Missouri)
- Buffalo National River (NPS-Arkansas)
- Russell Preserve Survey Project (Oklahoma)
- Missouri Cave Inventory/Data
- Program Coordinator, Scott House: Cave mapping, resource surveys, and
biologic inventory are conducted in the Ozark National Scenic
Riverways, on Missouri Department of Conservation lands, in the Mark
Twain National Forest and in privately-owned Pioneer Forest. Work is
done under cooperative agreements between CRF and Federal/state
agencies who administer the lands.
- Buffalo National River Cave Inventory/Data Management Program - Cave mapping, inventory, and biological monitoring are conducted on
Buffalo National River lands under a cooperative agreement and
scientific research permit with the NPS.
Canyon Operations AreaAs the name implies, the Sequoia/Kings Canyon Operations
area includes the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Patked in
California's Sierra Mountains. The largest cave in the parks is
Lilburn Cave with over 20 miles of surveyed passage. Survey and
scientific work is done both in Lilburn and in numerous other caves in
Sequoia/Kings Canyon Projects:
- Lilburn Cartography Project -
Chief Cartographer, Jed Mosenfelder: The project began in 1980 with the
goal of adding more detail to some of the main passages. Since then the
7.8 miles of known cave has been resurveyed using modern sketching
techniques and standards and 13.8 miles of survey has been added to the
known length making it the longest cave in California at 21.6 miles.
For cartography, the passages are split out into quadrangles and
drafting is done on computer. As quadrangles are completed, copies are
provided to survey teams who then field check the maps.
- Redwood Canyon Sediment Studies
- Principal Investigator, Dr. John Tinsley: This research measures rate
of sediment yield and rates, and processes of sediment transport among
the karst features of Redwood Canyon (CA) in order to (1) improve
understanding of the karst and its physical system and (2) to gain
insight into the region's natural history using a sedimentological
- Mineral King Project Area -
Project Coordinator, Elaine Scott: Started in 1993, work in the
Mineral King area involves inventory and survey of the area's caves.
- Lilburn Restoration Project -
Project Coordinator, Bill Frantz: Over its long history of use, some of
the formation areas of Lilburn Cave have suffered damage. Fortunately,
there is little formation breakage, but the very muddy nature of some
passages has resulted in dirty formations. In 1993, the Lilburn
Restoration Project was initiated to try to undo some of that damage
and to prevent further problems. Restoration efforts have been
dedicated to cleaning formations, flagging trails and installing
The Southwest Operations area is focused primarily on Carlsbad Caverns
National Park where CRF personnel are assisting with the ongoing
mapping of Carlsbad Caverns and other caves in the Park. The
Foundation also assists with other projects, notably including periodic
work sessions to restore areas of the cave that have been damaged by
foot traffic or trail building activities.
Other projects on government land in the Carlsbad area are also ongoing.
The Northwest Operations Area (NOA),
newly minted in 2019 by the CRF Board of Directors, initially is
comprised of three Federal jurisdictions, each containing chiefly
volcanic or lava-tube caves. The new NOA designation succeeds the Lava
Beds Operations Area (LABE) that formerly housed operations at Lava
Beds National Monument and the adjacent Mendocino and Modoc National
Forests, which have existed from 1988 to 2019. The new CRF
Operations Area now includes the cartography and inventory project
coordinated by Mark Jones at Craters of the Moon National Monument, in
Idaho’s famed Snake River Plain. Bill Broeckel is the Principal
Investigator for the Mendocino National Forest CRF effort, and John
Tinsley coordinates the Lava Beds operation.
- Craters of the Moon, Idaho:
This is the newest CRF project; CRF personnel are in the early stages
of a long-term project to locate and document the lava tubes in Craters
of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. The goal is to produce an
accurate list of lava tube locations, detailed maps of the significant
tubes, and an inventory of biological, geological, and cultural items
in the tubes. This project is coordinated by Mark Jones.
- Mendocino National Forest:
This cartography and inventory project is centered chiefly in the
national forest areas immediately adjacent to LABE. Many of these lava
cave features could have been included in the LABE boundaries as they
are geologically identical, but the political horse-trading in the
1930s, when the Monument’s enabling legislation passed Congress,
preserved some prime forested tracts for logging operations at the
behest of timber interests. These areas include the source vent areas
of the 12,500-year-old Valentine Cave basaltic andesite flow and some
remarkable major lava tube systems that conducted the initial eruptive
phases of the basalt of Mammoth Crater, the basalt flow that spawned
the lion’s share of LABE’s >800 lava caves. This project is
coordinated by Bill Broeckel.
- Lava Beds National Monument (LABE):
The Lava Beds operation was initiated in 1988-1989 by Janet M. Sowers,
as a multifaceted effort drawing scientists from across the Western
Region of the United States. Topics studied included bat biology, cave
cartography and inventory, ice cave monitoring, dust monitoring,
invertebrate biology. Janet also oversaw the fundraising and
construction of the Lava Beds Research Center, dedicated in 2004 and
presently the nexus of CRF operations in the area. Bruce Rogers and Pat
Helton succeeded Janet as LABE ops managers, and John Tinsley has
herded the cats since 2012. The present CRF objective is to assist Lave
Beds National Monument with cave surveys, cave resource inventories and
other projects, including studies of the lava flow history within the
Monument, thus providing thorough evaluation of the caves and resources
they contain and to provide input toward management of the caves.
Individual projects are mainly organized geographically and
geologically and encompass individual lava flow lobes, such as Elmer’s
Trench and central flow lobe (Ed Klausner), Balcony Boulevard flow
(Dave West), Cave Loop caves (Liz Wolff), the caves of the North and
South Castle Flows (Scott House), and caves of the Valentine Basalt
flow (John Tinsley).
Some CRF projects are not specific to any single operations area.
- USGS National Spacial Data
In 1996, a grant was awarded to CRF by the U.S. Geolgoical Survey for
the development of tools that contribute to the USGS National Spacial
Data Infrastructure. CRF, in cooperation with Mammoth Cave National
Park, The American Cave Conservation Association (ACCA), and Kentucky's
Barren River Area Development District (BRADD), have developed and
proposed a minimal content standard for the collection of cave survey
data on federal lands.
- China/USA Caves Project and Exchange
- Project Director, Ian Baren: This project promotes the joint
exploration, mapping and research of the caves and karst of China and
the U.S. The sponsoring entity from China is Guizhou Normal University.
Project activities have been focusing on the caves and karst of Guizhou
Province. In return for sponsoring CRF/NSS cavers in China, CRF and the
NSS sponsor and host 3 to 5 chinese researchers to the NSS convention.
Project trips run every other year with the exchange taking place
during intervening years.
- GIS Resource Development Program
-Project Directors, Aaron Addison & Bernard Szukalski: In 1997,
recognizing that GIS technology was rapidly becoming one of the most
effective approaches to cave and karst resource management, the Cave
Research Foundation established a GIS Resource Development Program. The
goal of the program is to assist CRF personnel, federal agency staff,
and other researchers access and utilize spatial data, GIS
applications, and other software tools for the purpose of cave and
karst resource management. A longer term goal is to use GIS to develop
a collective knowledge and support base for cave conservation,
protection and management.
- Educational Resource Development
The purpose of this program is to make information about cave and karst
resources more widely available through the development of audiovisual
and multimedia educational materials. Hardware and software, utilizing
digital video, digital still and computer graphics and animation
packages are available to create presentations that can be rendered in
standard VHS, CD-ROM, and World Wide Web formats. The program has two
primary goals: 1) The development and dissemination of educational
resources (primarily multimedia \ and audiovisual) and, 2) the
provision of assistance to federal agencies who want to create
interpretive exhibits and displays for the general public. Projects are
currently being developed.
last updated or validated on March 23, 2020