Avalanche Cave Reopened
October 1, 2018
Admin

The WCC is excited to announce that a cave that has been closed off for several years is open again. Avalanche Cave, located in a remote, high elevation region a couple of hours drive from Nevada City, is now under ownership of the US Forest Service. Previously it was part of a timber tract owned by Sierra Pacific Lumber Company.  While for a few years we did make once annual multi-grotto trips, the hoops we had to jump through were rather onerous. Then, when negotiations with the Forest Service began, all trips were denied. During this time the WCC provided information to the Forest Service and the Trust for Public Land which assisted with the project. We also committed to assisting with future management in any way that proved helpful. After several years, when the sale was completed, the WCC offered to introduce Forest personnel to the caves, which we were able to do just recently.

We have had two very successful trips to the cave, taking the District biologists who are in charge of the resource, and Joel Despain, the USFS Regional cave specialist. They found these visits extremely helpful as the first step in developing a formal management plan. As it stands right now, due to the remote location, high altitude and difficult access, special protection measures like gating and trip reservations were not felt to be necessary. The Mother Lode Grotto will continue to monitor visitation through their register program and will share this information with the WCC and the Tahoe National Forest.

This cave (and a couple of smaller ones nearby) are not well known and even with GPS can be very difficult to find. The WCC recommends that if cavers wish to visit these caves that they contact either the Mother Lode Grotto, the Diablo Grotto or the San Francisco Bay Chapter, all of which have knowledgeable leaders. These grottos have always welcomed cavers from other grottos to join their trips. This cave is only accessible from late June through September in most years.  In heavy snow years it is often mid-July before it can be reached. Early snows close it quickly. The last 15+ miles are rough dirt road and vehicles with all wheel drive and decent clearance are recommended. Ordinary cars can probably make it but will consume a lot of extra time due to slow travel speeds . The hike is approximately a mile with much of it in extremely steep, rocky and overgrown terrain.

The cave itself is basically horizontal in nature and includes approximately 2000 feet of passage. An extremely narrow connection joins the upper entrance section to the lower entrance portion. While not heavily decorated, there are some nice examples of boxwork and the stream passage has some small but lovely helictites. The lower entrance area is very biologically active and there are historic signatures in two areas.  Being an alpine cave, the in-cave temperature is on the cool side, probably in the low to mid 40’s. The surrounding canyon is really beautiful with some outstanding old growth firs and cedars.

The WCC will continue to work with the Tahoe National Forest and provide any assistance we can to help them manage the cave in a way that protects the resource and allows reasonable visitation by the caving community.


 

Article originally appeared on Western Cave Conservancy (http://www.westerncaves.org/).
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