Excuse Me, Sir, There's Some Lint on Your Stalactite...

Cave formations.

Cave formations are more delicate than they may appear. Photo by grampymoose via Creative Commons and flickr.

Caves are fascinating and often beautiful places, but that underground environment can also be surprisingly delicate. If you've ever taken a cave tour, you've likely been cautioned not to touch the formations, because the natural oils and other substances found on human hands can accumulate on the rock and eventually cause unwelcome changes in the cave.

The staff at Oregon Caves National Monument explains another challenge for cave managers, even if visitors follow the rules:

Approximately 50,000 visitors to the cave a year leave behind tiny bits of clothing fiber, hair and trash. Over time, lint builds up and can disturb the cave ecosystem
.

This is one example of the ways many small actions eventually accumulate to cause bigger impacts that we may realize, and a story on the Traveler last year described some steps the staff is taking at Oregon Caves to protect those underground wonders. One of those projects is coming up this weekend: a volunteer event that provides an opportunity for you to help "tune up" the cave. Participants will have the chance to get up close and personal with stalactites, stalagmites and other natural features at the park.

On Saturday, September 26, Oregon Caves National Monument will host its third annual National Public Lands Day cave cleanup. Volunteers are invited to join park staff for a day of removing lint and trash from the cave with brushes, tweezers and other tools.

This event is a great opportunity to meet other volunteers and provide a real service to Oregon Caves. Volunteers will be rewarded with a pass good for one day of free admission to any fee site on public lands. Lunch will be provided and there will be an option for an off-trail caving trip in the evening.

Advance registration is required. To register, or for more information, contact Elizabeth Hale by e-mail (elizabeth_hale@nps.gov) or phone (541) 592-2100 ext. 2254. Anyone interested in volunteering but unable to attend this event is encouraged to call or e-mail to be put on a mailing list for future volunteer opportunities.

The park website has directions to Oregon Caves National Monument and additional details about the area.