Date of Trip – 18 July 2009
Participants: Bill Gee (Leader)
Time in: 9:30am
Time out: 5:45pm
Areas Visited – UL2-90 side passage
Severa years ago while helping with the mapping of the UL2-90 side passage, I noticed a number of cave fish in isolated pools. The passage is muddy and meandering, with very little flow to the stream. During the mapping trips the stream was not flowing at all. How did fish get into isolated pools?
The biology project trip on July 18 gave us a few answers. We found that the stream is not always at zero flow. We found both salamanders and fish, though nothing else.
I drove down Friday night arriving at the school house about 6:30. Jeff camped at a motel in Camdenton, DJ and Craig went to the Deer Creek Sportsman Club along with Jim Cooley, and Andy drove down very early Saturday morning.
Andy arrived at the school house about 7:30 and immediately stretched out for a nap. Jeff arrived about 30 minutes later. Jeff and I talked for a while, then about 8:30 we drove on up the hill.
A mapping crew was in the cave, so the cave was open and the hole rigged with a rope. Although they did not intend to be out until the next day, I put a bagged rope next to the culvert ready to rig, just in case they came out before us.
Andy drove up about 9:00 and a few minutes later DJ and Craig arrive. Jim Cooley had originally planned to go on the trip, but his back was hurting so he backed out.
By 9:30 we were all dressed and ready to head down the hole. I went first so I could get the data loggers downloaded while the others came down. We were all in the cave in about 20 minutes.
The hike out to UL2 was uneventful. We noticed the water was slightly murky, probably from the mapping crew who were out at the Second Azure Pool. We arrived at UL2 about 10:20. After a quick break we headed on in.
About 100 feet inside UL2 is a dye trace bug. I exchanged the bug for a fresh one, took a water sample and we went on. Just past the decorations area is another data logger which I downloaded. We arrived at Convention Hall about 10:55.
The bait sticks in Convention Hall are throwing out a lot of tendrils. Dr. Ashley photographed them during our trip in June. I tried to get some more photos, but my camera memory card was acting up. I got a photo of a salamander near the bait sticks. I tried to get pictures of the bait sticks in the Conference Room, but the camera was still not cooperating.
There is both a low road and a high road going to UL2-90. We tried the high road but missed a turn somewhere. It took us a while to find the side passage. It was close to 11:45 by the time we all got there. We saw several fish and salamaders in the stream near the UL2-90 side passage entrance.
UL2-90 is also know as the “3M” passage … Muddy Meandering Madness. It is not a large passage. The stream wanders from side to side and has created what Andy calls “Spanky Banks”. The trail goes up and over a number of very slippery mud banks. For the first few hundred feet we did not see much of the stream.
The stream was flowing, though not much. It was about the same flow as Carroll River downstream from the Second Water Barrier. We estimated about 12 feet per minute velocity in one of the narrow portions. We took our time so we could search for fish and other critters. Even so it was hard work just moving through the passage.
The stream bed is mostly mud and silt. We found very few rocks and so did not spend much time looking for isopods and snails.
We arrived at the passage fork about 1:30pm where we stopped for a hot meal break. After the break Andy decided he wanted to stay put and rest for the trip back. We decided that Craig and I would take the right fork while DJ and Jeff took the left fork. We agreed to meet back no later than 4:00pm which would give us an hour and a half.
I’ve been down the left fork. It goes a few hundred feet beyond the fork, then takes a sharp right and ends at a breakdown pile. There is a very small passage where the stream comes out. It might be passable by a tiny team. We were not up for it during the mapping trips and even less so now. Anyone going up that passage will utterly destroy any life in the stream. DJ and Jeff took a bit less than an hour to the breakdown and back, and they reported seeing no fish or salamanders.
Craig and I went down the left fork. There is a trickle of water coming out of the right fork. After 13 survey stations it turns into a nasty but dry squeeze passage with several levels. Craig squirmed through a tight spot and found more passage beyond. A bit of searching found another way into that area, so I followed. We climbed, crawled, squeezed and generally oozed for about 20 or 30 minutes. It was very hard work, and we did not find any more stream. Eventually we decided to turn it around and go back. We were gone about 45 minutes. We found a single salamander about 70mm which was in the stream.
Craig and I got back to Andy first. DJ and Jeff arrived a few minutes later. We all got packed up and started out. The trip out was not any easier. We decided to take a belly crawl instead of the stream crawl, which saved us some effort for about 40 feet. It took us something over 30 minutes to get back to the side passage entrance.
This time we took the low road back to the Conference Room. It went quickly and we had no trouble finding the way. On the way out of the Conference Room I sat on a rock which collapsed and rolled down the hill along with me! It was a good size rock, perhaps 100 pounds, but fortunately I was not injured. We took the holes one at a time, and it was a good thing. Anyone below me would have been seriously injured.
We arrived back at the ladder about 5:30 and were all out of the cave a bit before 6:00pm.
On the way to Convention Hall we saw several dozen fish. We did not count or measure them. We did not see any bats during the whole trip.
In Convention Hall we saw a single grotto salamander near the bait sticks. It had a white head and tail, but the abdomen was still black. The waterfall in Convention Hall was just a trickle.
First few hundred feet – Two fish 30mm and 50mm, one adult and one juvenile salamander.
One isopod about 2mm about 20 feet from UL2-90-A21 – Also one adult salamander in the stream.
One fish 50mm, one partly black salamander.
UL2-90-A23 – Between A18 and A20, we saw a salamander about 70mm and a fish about 45mm. At the marker we had a fish about 50mm.
Between UL2-90-A32 and UL2-90-A36 – Two 40mm fish, One 50mm fish, a 55mm fish at the deep pool at the marker. We found a dead beetle of some kind, could not collect it because we had nothing to carry it in.
UL2-90-A47 (Y-junction) – No biota observed. Stream is still continuous but not deep. We found a survey tape and pair of gloves that were left behind.
Right fork – One salamander about 70mm, adolescent.
Left fork – One salamander about 100mm. DJ observed some trails in the sand near the end of the passage, almost like a snake trail. We later speculated it might have come from a salamander.