Weller Natural Preserve (Rippled Cave)

Rippled Cave belongs to the Western Cave Conservancy! What originally appeared to be an easy, straightforward process to acquire a popular cave from a landowner willing to sell turned out to be a roller coaster of delays and uncertainties. Finally, finally…the planets and stars fell into alignment, or maybe we just got lucky, but whatever the reason, it came together and on March 21, 2006 the cave became ours!

Rippled Cave, Dave Bunnell Photo

The cave is on a 15-acre parcel in the rural Sierra Nevada foothills in California. The property is now known officially as the “Weller Natural Preserve” in honor of the Weller Family who graciously allowed cavers to visit and enjoy the cave for many years, before agreeing to sell the cave to secure its permanent protection.

Now it is time for all of us, members and cavers alike, to “walk the talk.” Successfully managing Rippled Cave, with the attendant responsibilities of property ownership, neighbor relations, liability risk, resource conservation, and recreational access, is going to be a huge challenge. The cave belongs to all of us, and so, too, does the responsibility. Our Stewardship Committee, headed up by Martin Haye and later by Marianne Russo, has devising a management plan that will address all these issues. We plan to consult directly with the neighbors and with the NSS grottos that have traditionally visited Rippled Cave. Of course, we welcome input from all individuals with ideas or concerns.

Interim Access Policy

Trip Allocation
Each participating NSS grotto will be issued a key to the locked gate and given a trip number limit based on historic use by the grotto and grotto size. This limit is in response to neighbor concerns over the years about frequency of trips and overuse of the privately maintained road.

  • Stanislaus Grotto (3 trips per year)
  • Diablo Grotto (5 trips per year)
  • Mother Lode Grotto (6 trips per year)
  • San Francisco Bay Chapter (6 trips per year)
  • San Joaquin Valley Grotto (3 trips per year)

These are the maximum number of trips each grotto can take. Based on the last few years’ records it is expected that the actual number of trips will be much less, but having the maximum number higher gives grottos greater flexibility in planning. In general we think the neighbors would be very comfortable with a combined average of two trips a month.

Gate and Parking Procedures
When you arrive at the cave unlock and swing the gate inward. Pull your car(s) in and close the gate immediately behind you. Do not leave the gate open unlocked and unattended. Please lock yourself inside (just like we do in gated caves) so that no one can follow you in or steal the lock. Leave the key in a safe place outside the cave and show at least one other person where it is hidden in case of an emergency.

There is room for about 10 cars behind the gate, but that is really squeezing them in, so try to limit the number of vehicles. DO NOT park along the road. If you forget the key please change your plans and go caving elsewhere. The neighbors know that people with permission to visit the cave will have a key to the gate, so walk-ins are considered trespassers.

Night Trips
PLEASE DO NOT VISIT THE CAVE AT NIGHT! If a day trip runs over into the evening, especially during the winter, the neighbors will surely understand. However they do not like to see cars coming down the road late in the evening and hear things going on late at night.

The neighbors have expressed concern about how we are dealing with sanitation. So, we are asking that visitors pack out burrito bags with any solid waste and urinate away from the road, taking care not to leave any toilet paper on the property.

Last But Not Least!
Finally, please be considerate of the neighbors. Drive slowly and carefully on the access road, keep the noise levels down and do not trespass on other properties. In particular, the owners of the old limekiln across the road have explicitly denied permission for anyone to walk over on their side of the road to look at this archeological feature. Please don’t use their driveway across the street for a turn-around or pull-out.

Marianne Russo is the contact person for this interim policy if you have questions or need a key replacement. We suggest you coordinate trips with her to avoid colliding with other grottos. Please notify Marianne immediately if you see any damage to the cave, the gate, or the property. Phone (916) 663-2571.