Jewel Passes 180, Keeps Going

Nov 18, 2015

Jewel Cave is now 180 miles long and it contains a second lake.
 
On a four day exploration trip during the second week of November cavers pushed  into the deepest reaches of the world’s third longest cave and mapped passageways past the 180 mile marker.  They also found a new lake.

Caver Nate Hughes at Piso Mojado Lake in Jewel Cave in November of 2015.
Credit National Park Service

The exploration team came across the second Jewel Cave lake, a passageway full of water they named Piso Mojado, about 100 feet away from the cave's first lake found earlier this year.  National Park officials say the new pool of water confirms Jewel intersects the Madison Aquifer. 

“This is a direct window into the Madison.  It will allow us to more accurately say where the water in the Madison goes," says  Mike Wiles the Chief of Resource Management at Jewel Cave. 

"It may give us an indication later on how far, at least the air filled part of the cave could extend.  Because  as this goes farther to the south eventually the limestone is going to dip below the water table.  There may be more cave down there but nothing we could ever consider exploring,” says Wiles.

The Madison Aquifer the largest underground body of water in western South Dakota.   The intersection with the aquifer also opens a door for new research on the microbial life in the cold and dark cave lakes.   Researchers are planning to sample the water to study the rare bacteria that live there.  

Cave explorers have plenty of work left too. Wiles says  over the last year exploration teams mapped a record 7 miles of new cave  that includes some 300 new unexplored passageways that have not yet been checked.   Wiles says it’s even possible Jewel could pass the 200 miler marker in the coming 3 to 4 years.