Caves and Karst of the Providence Mountains Study Area, Mojave National Preserve: BuildingUpon Decades of Volunteer Contributions. Bernard W. Szukalski Esri 380 New York Street, Redlands, CA 92373USA firstname.lastname@example.org Tom Gilleland MineGates, Inc. 4980 N. Campbell Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85718 USA email@example.com Ted Weasma Mojave National Preserve 2701 Barstow Road, Barstow, California 92311 USA Ted_Weasma@NPS.govAbstract:The Providence Mountains are located in the eastern Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County,California, and are one of the major carbonate ranges now located within the Mojave NationalPreserve, a 1.6 million acre unit established in 1994 by the California Desert Protection Act.In 2010 a study area in the Providence Mountains was designated by the Mojave NationalPreserve in the award of a contract to locate and inventory caves and rock shelters and updateinformation on all existing NPS caves within its limits. The study area encompasses a roughly 16square mile area in the heart of Bonanza King Canyon – one of several major limestone canyonson the east side of the range, and an area with a rich speleological history that has received theattention of cavers since the 1960s.The foundation of the MOJA cave database was established using early published reports,anecdotal information, and subsequent contributions from NSS cavers, the Cave ResearchFoundation, and park staff. This latest project brought together park personnel, contractors, andvolunteers in a successful relationship that met project goals as well as preserved the history ofearlier work.The database was used to derive GIS maps and other digital mapping products to facilitateexploration, identification, and understanding of caves in the area. The final report includes theupdated database with 133 caves and other features, newand updated maps, a biologicalinventory, a discussion of geology, and GIS maps and data products.
Setting and backgroundThe Mojave Desert and Mojave Desert Ecosystem encompass more than 80,000 square milesand include portions of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. The area represents an extremelydiverse environment encompassing the lowest and highest points in the United States (MojaveDesert Ecosystem Project, http://www.mojavedata.gov). The greater Mojave Desert alsoincludes many national parks, monuments, and scenic areas as well as state parks andpreserves.Near the center of the Mojave Desert lies the Mojave National Preserve. The preserve wasestablished by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 and includes roughly 2,500 squaremiles, or roughly 1.6 million acres, of which nearly 700,000 acres are designated wilderness. TheMojave National Preserve ranges in elevation from a low of 880 feet near Baker, California, tohigh of 7,929 feet at the summit of Clark Mountain, located in the northern limits of thePreserve (Mojave National Preserve, http://www.nps.gov/moja). The Mojave National Preserveis the third largest NPS unit in the continental United States, behind Death Valley National Parkand Yellowstone National Park (National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov).Nearby cave resourcesNear the Mojave National Preserve are areas with significant cave resources. Three areas ofnote include Mitchell Caverns, the Kokoweef Peak area, and the Pisgah lava flow.Mitchell Caverns is part of the California state park system and Providence Mountains StateState Recreation Area. It is located in the southern Providence Mountains, surrounded by theMojave National Preserve. The caverns are seasonally operated for public tours (California StateParks, http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=615). Mitchell Caverns (currently closeddue to State budget issues) consists of two caves, El Pakiva and Tecopa Caverns, connected via aman-made tunnel. The total length of the cave (including the connection tunnel) is 1,476 feetwith a depth of 84 feet.Also within the State Recreation Area is Cave of the Winding Stair, an unimproved cave firstmade famous by William R. Halliday in his book Adventure is Underground (1959). The cave wassurveyed to a length of 1,954 feet and depth of 311 feet in 1971 by members of the SouthernCalifornia Grotto, NSS (Arnold, 1971).Other smaller caves have been recorded in the state lands.The Pisgah area is a basaltic cinder cone and lava flow located to the southwest of the Preserveboundary and located primarily on BLM land. Hundreds of cavesare known in the area and whilemost are small, several are of considerable size and dimension. The longest is over 1,000 feetlong (Harter, 1992).The Kokoweef area was also highlighted by Halliday (1959) in his book Adventure isUnderground.In 1972 members of the Southern California Grotto visited the area and mappedseveral caves, including Crystal Cave which was surveyed to a length of 367 feet (McIntosh,1972). The area is most known for a fabled and mysterious lost cave – a cave discovered by EarlP. Dorr and located under Kokoweef Peak. Dorr supposedlygained entry to the caveand claimed
that it extended for miles, with an underground river lined with gold sediments and stalactitesup to 1,500 feet long.These locales are evidence that the Mojave Desert contains significant caves, and the lure andlore of the potential of similar finds has fueled exploration over the decades.History of cave exploration in the Mojave National PreserveWithin the present day Mojave National Preserve, early discovery and exploration of caves canbe attributed to Native Americans. Later minersscoured and inhabited the area. Mines, claims,ruins, and other artifacts can be found throughout the canyons of the Preserve today.Since the 1960s members of the local caving community, in particular members of the SouthernCalifornia Grotto, have taken an interest in the area and have documented ridgewalkingactivities and discoveries in grotto and regional newsletters, and other publications.Severalnotable publications have become the definitive record of these explorations. TheseincludeCaves of the Providence Mountains (Quick, 1979), Report of the Providence MountainsCave Hunt March 22 and 23, 1975, in Gilroy Canyon (Quick 1976), Caves of the ProvidenceMountains (Quick, 1979), and most significant for this study;Caves and Shelters in Bonanza KingCanyon (September 1975 – May 1976) (Hardcastle, 1977).These contain the historical record,descriptions, and general locations of many of the caves known in the Preserve today.In 1997 a Cave Research Foundation (CRF) expedition was held in the Preserve, includingfocused work in the Bonanza King Canyon area. The expedition used Hardcastle’s 1975 reportand Quick’s 1979 report as a foundation for its activities. In Bonanza King Canyon severalpreviously recorded caves were located, and several new small finds were added to the Mojavedatabase (Szukalski, 2007).Most of the early maps and records pre-date the availability and widespread use of GPS devicesand digital mapping capabilities, and many of the caves and shelters are located only by generalreference and rough sketch maps. Early maps of the known caves and shelters were also quiterudimentary, containing little passage detail and often only rough sketches.Other information iscontained within the personal archives of cavers throughout the region.Mojave National Preserve Cave ManagementSince the inception of the Preserve in October 1994, Park planners have actively compiledinformation to develop a General Management Plan (GMP). The plan was published in August of1998. The information at that time included information about Mitchell Caverns, Cave of theWinding Stair, other small caves within the local area, and the Cima lava tube (Cima Cave). TheGMP noted that very little was known about the caves and an inventory was needed. Much ofthat information (as noted above) had already been recorded in the form of maps, trip reports,and other information that had been assembled by the local caving community, most of whichwas unknown at the time to the Mojave National Preserve.
In August of 1998 Ted Weasma arrived in the park to work on mining claim validity. Weasmahad previous experience with cave management and inventory work while working with BLM inBoise Idaho and Roseburg Oregon, so he began to collect additional data on the cave resourcesof the park.In 1999 he began to collect what published data he could find in cooperation withRon Kerbo of the NPS Denver office. Kerbo provided contact information for the SouthernCalifornia Grotto in December of 1999 and the Park and local cavers have worked together sincethen, sharing information and leveraging the help of volunteers to collect and glean informationabout the historic caving record as well as new discoveries.The park published its final GMP in 2002. The reportincluded stipulations that the Park will: Manage caves in a manner that protects the natural conditions such asdrainage patterns, airflow, and plant and animal communities. Continue to work cooperatively with the California Department of Parks and Recreation to inventory, study and protect the significant cave resources that are found at Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. Avoid development of caves and perpetuate natural conditions, while seeking to protect the resource. Develop a cave management program where significant cave resources exist. Enhance knowledge of cave resources through comprehensive inventory,monitoring and research.This has been an unfunded and slow process that continues today.In 2002 the park had 32 caves in its inventory database. Outside funding from the Associationfor Women Scientists became available through the Geologists in the Park Program in 2004, andLaura Chlor came onboard to do cave inventory.Chlor developed an inventory form and worked with local cavers to gather better informationon the caves in Bonanza King Canyonwith emphasis on good locality data. By 2005, with manyexploration trips from local cavers (primarily members of the Southern California Grotto) 49caves were recorded.Currently, and with the additional information gathered via this most recent project, the MojaveNational Preserve database includes 197 caves, shelters, cave features. The longest cave in thePreserve is Warner’s Cave with a length of 335 feet, though most caves are less than 100 feetlong.The ContractIn 2011 special funding became available for cave work that needed to be obligated in a veryshort time. The Park jumped on it as the rare opportunity to fund needed inventory work. In theinitial solicitation announcement, funding was not specified but the posting listed the amountasless than $100,000.The attractive six-figurenumber attracted consultants from a wide geographic area, many ofwhom had no previous experience or investment in caves in the Mojave National Preserve. Localcavers became concerned that the historical record would be “stepped on” and previous work
and anecdotal information from decades of cavers would be lost, especially after severalprospective bidders contacted local cavers for information.The issue was brought to a satisfactory conclusion for all when MineGates, Inc., became thecontract awardee. MineGates is owned by Tom Gilleland, who has a familiarity with caves in thearea as well as a relationship with local cavers who have invested in looking for caves within thePreserve. MineGates assembled the winning combination for the contract award; a well-qualified team with prior experience in the Mojave and a competitive project bid. Theassembled team included both volunteers and professionals, and included members of the localcaving community as well as the Preserve. A total of 24 individuals contributed directly to thecontracted project.The contract work included survey, mapping, photography, and inventory in two designatedareas. One area was located in the Clark Mountains, the second encompassing the heart ofBonanza King Canyon in the Providence Mountains. Field work began in December 2010, withmulti-day trips and single-day excursions. Project activities were completed in March 2011.Project WorkThe master Mojave cave database is maintained in an Excel spreadsheet, and includesGPSlocations, jurisdiction, designations (wilderness vs. public lands), topographic quadrangle names,cave inventory notes, and other information for each cave. The two study areas were deliveredto the contractor as PDF files showing the boundary of the respective study sites.Using ArcGIS, the PDFs were rasterized and georeferenced, with the study areas digitized fromeach georeferenced sheet.The master Mojave database was added as a GIS layer. The studyarea boundaries were used to extract features within each area, thus forming the substrate forthe project work. Additional data layers were used in the GIS to verify jurisdiction, quadrangleboundaries, and wilderness designation.Additional information gleaned from sketch maps, personal communications, unpublishednotes, and other sources was, where possible, placed geographically using visual review of theGIS database for field evaluation. Many of the “lost” caves and shelters in previous reports werereferenced in relation to key cave locations. Once a “keystone” cave was located, otherlocations and historical records fell into place. By working from the original reports, the historicrecord and naming of cave features was preserved.Field work focused on systematic ridgewalking of the study areas, using hand-held GPS to recordlocations. Many of the features are located in steep canyons and are vertically stacked, thusphoto locations sheets were included in the report so visual verification of features could beestablished when they were clustered or stacked.The final report is 243 pages long, and includes detailed notes on each cave, shelter, and featurealong with photographs. The cave reports include references to information from the originalsource documentation. When historically recorded caves were not located, the originalpublished information was included in the report, thus preserving the historical record forfuture work.
Maps of new finds and newly updated maps were included, along with original maps whenupdated maps were not available. The final report also included sections on biology, geology,GIS, and a comprehensive bibliography.The longest cave included in the report was Virginia Mine Cave with a length of 131 feet. Thesecond longest cave recorded was Wishbone Cave with a length of 80 feet. The most significantdiscovery biologically was the identification of Brackenridgiaheroldi, previously recorded in theMother Lode and Sequoia regions of California, and now having a significantly extended range.Many new small caves, shelters, and other features were added to the database, bringing thetotal for the Bonanza King Canyon study area to 111 features.Conclusions and SummaryContinued exploration and the significant data collection work under this contract has providedthe park with a much better record of its resources. The park will continue to work with localcavers on cave exploration, inventory work, and research.Modern and historical records, including hand-scrawled notes obtained from local cavers, werecaptured in the report, a key objective for local cavers involved in the project. Many new cavesand shelters were documented, and formerly “lost” caves and leads were found and included inthe record.Perhaps most significantly, the volunteer efforts of generations of explorers and cavers thathave invested their time, energy, and expertise to search for, map, and document caves andkarst features throughout the Providence Mountains and Mojave National Preserve, waspreserved.ReferencesArnold, J. 1971. Cave Of The Winding Stair map.Halliday, W. R. 1959. Adventure is Underground. New York: Harper & Brothers.Hardcastle, R. 1977. Caves and Shelters in Bonanza King Canyon (September 1975 – May 1976).Bulletin No. 4 of the Mojave Division of the California Speleological Survey, WesternSpeleological Survey Serial No. 54. 14 pgs.Harter, R.1992.Lava Tubes of Pisgah, Southern California. Proceedings of the SixthInternationalSymposium on Vulcanospeleology, Hilo, Hawaii, pp. 63-64.McIntosh, J. 1972. Crystal Cave map.
Quick, Dell G. 1975.Report of the Providence Mountains Cave Hunt March 22 and 23, 1975, inGilroy Canyon. Bulletin No. 2 of the Mojave Division of the California Speleological Survey,Western Speleological Survey Serial No. 50. June, 1975. 29 pages.Quick, Dell G. 1976.Caves List for the Area Between Interstate Highways 15 and 40 and East ofLongitude 116° 15’ W., Mojave Desert Division of California. Bulletin No. 3 of the Mojave Divisionof the California Speleological Survey, Western Speleological Survey Serial No. 51. January 1976.7 pgs.Quick, Dell G. 1979.Caves of the Providence Mountains. Bulletin No. 5 of the Mojave Division ofthe California Speleological Survey, Western Speleological Survey Serial No. 58.Richards, R. (2003). Mitchell Caverns map.Szukalski, B. W. 2007.Mojave Cave Survey & Cave Research Foundation Mojave NationalPreserve & Providence Mountains SRA Expedition, April 20 – 23, 2007. Cave ResearchFoundation. 5 pgs.Szukalski, B. W. and Gilleland, T. 2011.Caves and Karst of the Providence Mountains and ClarkMountains Study Areas.Report to Mojave National Preserve. 243 pgs.