Two New Lakes Discovered In Jewel Cave
Jewel Cave rang in the New Year with new discoveries. Two lakes were found inside the cave over the weekend. Officials say these lakes, along with others in Wind Cave, offer researchers the rare opportunity to visit the water source in person.
The discovery of two lakes inside Jewel Cave over the weekend has sparked some research opportunities. New Year’s Lake, the larger of the two, is the second found on the site to intersect the Madison Aquifer.
Mike Wiles is the Chief of Resource Management at Jewel Cave. He said the now the United States Geological Survey, or USGS, is interested in extending its Madison Aquifer studies to include the Cave.
“This is a place where you can actually have a window to the aquifer. You can actually go down and see it. Everyplace else, except for Wind Cave, the best you can do is drill a hole. And that hole will give you measurements and, of course, you can pump water out so you can get water chemistry and things like that. But to actually go down and see the aquifer is very, very rare.”
Several camps that include access to water supplies are set up inside the cave. Wiles said these ensure cavers travel safely and conserve their energy while exploring. He added because there is still plenty of air filling the cave above the water level, the lakes won’t stop the cavers from moving forward.
“So I have a suspicion that it won’t all go under water soon. The undiscovered passages are going to skim across the top of the water. In other words, if we stay in higher levels we should be able to go a long, long way before they become submerged. And then, from time to time when we climb down into the lower levels, I expect we’ll be seeing many, many lakes to come. So that’s my educated guess.”
Wiles said Jewel Cave is perusing funding for a microbial study on the new lakes. Cavers discovered the deepest point of the cave to be 814.3 feet this weekend.