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"Since 1986, dedicated to the conservation and protection of our underground resources."

DEEP AND PUNKIN CAVES NATURE PRESERVE

Punkin Survey Expedition 15 - Trip Report

Deep Cave - Wall of Faces - click for a larger image in a new window

The Wall of Faces in Deep Cave
Photo by Geary Schindel

The Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve was purchased by the Texas Cave Management Association in September 2004.  The property covers 225 acres and contains both Deep Cave and Punkin Cave.  The property also contains a field house which is the center of operations at the property.

Both Deep Cave and Punkin Cave are large vertical and horizontal maze caves.  They were formed by ascending water rather than descending water and possibly by sulfuric acid processes much like Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

Deep Cave is now more than two kilometers long and close to 100 meters deep.  There is an active mapping project for the cave that is directed by Joe Mitchell.  Two to three project weekends occur each year.  Survey trips are announced on the Texas Caver list server or you may contact the Property Manager for more information.

Deep Cave does not require rope work to explore but does require a great deal of climbing and a moderate amount of crawling.  Major features in the cave include the entrance room, the Forest of Columns, the Helictite Room, and Miller Time area.  Trips commonly last 3 to 6 hours depending upon the areas of the cave visited.

Cavers rappelling into Punkin' Cave - click for a larger image in a new window

Cavers entering the main entrance to Punkin Cave
Photo by G. Schindel

Punkin Cave contains two entrances, located about 30 meters apart.  The larger main entrance is a 15 meter rappel into a large room.  The second entrance is a 12 meter rappel into the same room.  The entrance drops are commonly used for training new vertical cavers.  The cave contains over one kilometer of horizontal passage and there is an active mapping project for the cave being run by Jim Kennedy.  Trips are announced on the Texas Caver list serve or you may contact the Property Manager for more information.

Location

The Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve is located near Carta Valley in Edwards County.  The property is about 35 miles west of Rock Springs and 30 miles northeast of Del Rio.

How to Visit the Property

Because of the complexity of Deep Cave and the beautiful formations located in the cave, visits to the cave require an approved Trip Leader.  A Trip Leader is required to be an experienced caver and TCMA member and have made at least three trips in the cave within the last two years and have the approval of the Property Manager.  There is a limit of 5 people to each Trip Leader on a trip.  This helps to minimize damage to this fragile cave.  To stay at the property, the group requires an Expedition Leader.  To qualify as an Expedition Leader, you must have made three trips to the property within two years, been through Expedition Leader training, be a member of the TCMA, and have been approved by the Property Manager.  All experienced cavers are encouraged to become a Trip Leader and Expedition Leader.  Trip permits as well as Trip Leader and Expedition Leader training may be obtained by contacting the Preserve Manager listed below.  Directions will also be provided with the permit.  Overnight visitors to the site must also perform one hour of conservation work on the property.  This may include cutting catclaw around the cabin, work on the road, collecting rocks, cutting grass and brush, planting trees, etc.

A Donation of $10.00 per person per visit is requested to help defray the costs of operating the property.

Visits by non-TCMA groups, scout groups, and researchers

Cactus blooming at Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve - click for a larger image in a new window.

Blooming Cactus at Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve
Photo by G. Schindel

The Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve is open to non-TCMA individuals and groups as long as the group has an approved Trip Leader and Expedition Leader.  You may contact the Property Manager to obtain a list of approved Trip and Expedition Leaders.

Scout groups wishing to visit the cave are welcome as long as they follow the Scouting guide to safe caving.  Minimum age for youth groups is 14 years of age.  Everyone entering the cave must have a helmet with a non elastic chin strap, knee pads, one helmet mounted source of light and one spare light with batteries.  The cave is open year round but does require a visitation permit.  There is a limit of 24 people allowed on the property at any one time.  There have been two Eagle Scout projects completed at the preserve.  If you would like to perform an Eagle Scout project on the property, please contact the Project Manager. Currently, the property has been informally adopted by BSA Venture Crew 410 from San Antonio, Texas.

The property is also open on a permit basis to scientists, researchers, birders, etc.  Contact the Property Manager for further information.

Biology on the Preserve

Cave Adapted Scorpion in Deep Cave - click for a larger image in a new window

Cave Adapted Scorpion in Deep Cave
Photo by Graham Schindel

The property is noted for the presence of 10,000 to 30,000 Mexican Free-tail bats which use Punkin Cave between the middle of June and late October.  Entrance to Punkin Cave is restricted while bats are present.  However, there is a nice bat flight which occurs during summer months.  A nesting pair of Golden Check Warblers have also been identified on the property and a pair of nesting Great Horned Owls utilize the entrance to Punkin Cave.  This year, the owls produced three chicks.  There have also been numerous hawks, owls, deer, turtles, snakes, and other animals.  We do have feral pigs on the property and may have a mountain lion that passes through every now and then.  The property also has a number of usual cactus and a nice stand of pinion pine.  The nature preserve is a wildscape and there are the usually list of Texas plants and animals that bite, stick, or sting.

The Field House

Cabin Tracks - click for a larger image in a new window

Kurt Menking and Geary Schindel observing tracks leading into the Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve Cabin.
Photo by Graham Schindel

The Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve contains a field house and camping area located on the northern border of the property. The field house contains two bunk rooms that sleep 4 and 5 members respectively.  The Field House also has two electric stoves, a microwave, a refrigerator, a front and back porch, fire ring, and a number of camp sites.  There may be a supply of non-potable water and showers available at the cabin depending on local rainfall conditions.  We recommend that each person bring one gallon of water per day for drinking and cooking.  Additional water may be necessary for a solar shower.  There is also a state of the art desiccating E-Loo toilet system near the cabin.

Property Manager

If you would like to visit the Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve, please contact the Preserve Manager, Don Arburn at don.arburn@tcmacaves.org or at 361-362-3677.

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