9 thoughts on “What are your memories of Carroll Cave?”

  1. further communication from gd: (Thanks for reading!)
    it was st.louis university grotto during the trips done for helwig to do his
    thesis. the names escape me mostly, but do remember: jim helwig, jay
    ossenfort, dave harlan, dick fox, bill mc bride, john cantwell. ossenfort
    and harlan were the photogs and if you can find the they have some truly
    spectacular photos of the snowroom?.. at the first major fork from the
    moountain room you went left. the right went to thunder river.

  2. Just an area resident that loves checking in once in awhile to see what is going on. It is too bad “community relations” aren’t good….I admire your work. Hopefully you can carry on!

  3. In 1961 I was a member of a survey team from St. Louis Univ. Went into the natural entrance, past the milk cans, and walked the front part, “neck break” and all. No boat for us since the clearance was less than a foot. Anyway, I recently wrote a poem about the experience, assuming that the cave had been gated and closed soon after our adventure. Only found the web site today. Seem like a few things have changed. Here’s the poem. It kinda long, but so was that hike.


    Years ago I went caving with some other men
    About ten of us I think
    Most had considerable experience
    Three had never gone before

    I was among those virgins at that time
    Initiation time
    But I was young and strong and curious
    They’d watch out for me

    This little cave had been know for many years
    Farmers kept milk cold in there
    In frames in the small stream flowing out
    No need for going deeper

    Local kids would scare their girlfriends in there
    But it’s not romantic
    Fifty two degrees and wet and muddy
    Not a place for pleasure

    I knew we’d be getting pretty wet in there
    But thought the stream was shallow
    Three feet at most, but one ceiling was at four
    They called that the neck break

    So now I’m in water up to my neck
    Doing a silly duckwalk
    Head bent to one side, helmet scraping roof
    Carbide lamp at water line

    Past that the ceiling will be at least five feet
    Two feet above the water
    Improvement yes, but I am six feet tall
    Wet all through, really cold, neck crimped

    What fun we’re having now but it gets better
    Walk where others walk
    Don’t leave more footprints than are needed
    Trail’s one foot wide, two deep

    And that’s not water, it’s mud that pulls boots off
    Will this never end
    Not till the breakdown, just two miles ahead
    What does that name mean

    At least the cave’s quite generous now
    Like a subway tube
    Maybe thirty feet in height and width
    River ten feet wide at most

    The cave once ended at the breakdown
    Thin columns floor to ceiling
    Like fifty feet of fence posts close together
    Till they got broken down

    A trail now two feet wide through this stone forest
    Walking in the water now
    Just a half mile more to rivers junction
    Now this is really fun.

    It seems that this cave has two rivers in it
    One flows out the entrance
    Turns at the junction to find its origin
    A hidden lake they say

    A bit further we hear the other stream
    It’s far below us now
    Maybe heading for that hidden source as well
    But we’ll not be going there

    Next comes the leap of faith across that river
    Just jump as far as you can
    Off one slick and muddy bank to the other
    But the other can’t be seen

    That far bank is some five feet below us
    And slopes down to the water
    If you don’t stay put on landing, down you’d go
    We all made it safely over

    At least we’d high above the river now
    Rocks slimy but little mud
    Our destinations just another mile
    Then comes the unknown

    The breakdown had been done just a year before
    Beyond that all virgin
    Where did it go, was there another entrance
    That’s why we were here

    One sometimes thought you felt a tiny breeze
    Must be an opening somewhere
    But the ceiling had fallen down long ago
    The river oozed through rubble

    Was there a way around we all wondered
    Side passages had been found
    We were there to explore each of them
    Maybe find the prize

    I was assigned a passage maybe three feet round
    I began to crawl
    The thin damp surface never seen by man
    It ended in a hundred yards

    It is a wonder to be in such a place
    The first, perhaps the last
    I laid there and turned off my carbide lamp
    Utterly alone

    That was an experience I had never had
    And never will again
    There are very few such places left
    And I have had enough

    Enough to last an entire lifetime
    Overwhelming solitude
    Was it frightening, no, not even in total darkness
    I wonder why sometimes

    We had been in that cave now for some seven hours
    Hypothermia was a danger
    We trudged back the way we had come before
    But much more tired now

    We hoped we would exit in late day sun
    Oh warming sun
    Then to the motel for hot showers and food
    And lovely sleep

    But one last hurtle, and not just the neck break
    It had rained without warning
    Four feet of water in a four foot space
    No room to breath

    We waited then for several hours, exhausted
    Four inch clearance finally came
    So off we all went, holding hands for safety
    And so did a thousand bats

    It’s been almost fifty years since that adventure
    I think I’ve remembered well
    A life experience never to be forgotten
    I’m a very lucky man

  4. Digging for years and finally Break through. First time in Carroll cave. reppeled in assended out. What a day

  5. My favorite memory of carroll, I have had a few, but i would have to say my first attempt to make it to the Lake room. What a trip. I was Younger then, truly not a full grown man. Not as much muscle to get my gear all the way, but tough as hell. I might have been slowed by the mud (never ending “Chilli” mud holes). Plus haveing a camp pack with me for more weight, but I still made it as far as everyone else. I had been caving before but, This was WILD CAVING. What a time. We basically made it but due to a person haveing a back issue and not sure quite how much farther decided to stop that time. I have been to the Lake sump 3 times now, and the last time i still left thinking, “What am I getting myself into…” It is more of a destination than a place to see. Still loved it.

  6. Spending six days deep in the cave in 2006. Three days with the photo crew photographing The Liberty Bell, Scenic Falls, Horseshoe Falls and The Lake Room then meeting the survey crew at Jerry’s Cairns to survey to The Lake Room and in DL7. A most difficult and amazing trip.

  7. My first trip to Carroll Cave was 35 years ago–I was 14, and already crazy in love with caves. I persuaded my brother Gary to come along on this KCAG trip. I remember the eerie boat ride in, that first icy step out of the canoe at the Neckbreakers, walking the two sets of neckbreakers, carelessly dunking my carbide light, and getting back into the canoe for the short trip across deeper waters to the Mountain Room. I remember changing clothes in the Mountain Room from dry clothes that were double-wrapped in garbage bags. My brother was cold and couldn’t get his gear to work, so I remember switching out some of my gear with his since I was already a “veteran” caver.

    Moving down Carroll River, there were times when the water and mud were deeper than I was at 5′ tall at the time. A couple of times I had to be pulled out of a mudhole. We made it past snake rock, snake skin, the Turnpike, where my friend Bob Korte had broken his leg changing out the cable ladder, and on to the “Old Man Carroll” formation. I remember Dave Hoffman’s 1000-foot interval reflectors (are they still there to mark the distance?) They seemed to come ever so slowly for the squelchy mud pulling at my scrawny legs. At some point, we climbed up a passage to the left and ran ahead at a higher level, only to stumble upon yet another river passage. Somebody ran back for a rope, only to find that we had looped back to the Carroll River passage.

    On the way back, one of the soles of my boots came off in the incomparable mud. Then the other. Neither was ever seen again through the depths, not that they would have done me any good anyway. I was ecstatic that I had finally been allowed to see Missouri’s king of caves, but all along dreading the getting wet again at the neckbreakers going out. It was a very cold pair of soaked socked feet that finally made it out later that day.

    I couldn’t wait to go back.

    But that is another story which would have to wait until May 22, 1976 to unfold.

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