Groaning Cave is on the White River National Forest and access is impacted by the adaptive management plan and WRNF closure order. Groaning Cave is a documented bat hibernaculum and swarming site. These activities mean that the cave is closed to visitation from August 15 through April 15 each year. Exceptions to this closure season may be permitted by the forest supervisor (Scott Fitzwilliams), but exceptions are unlikely to be approved for any activities other than bat research. The current closure order is in effect until July 31, 2016. During the open season (April 16 through August 14), registration and authorization is required to access the cave. The USFS website has detailed instructions on how to get this authorization. A form must be filled out and sent to R2WNS@fs.fed.us. Once authorization is obtained you can follow the standard procedure below to get the gate combination.
The longest cave in Colorado, and at a surveyed length of nearly 12 miles,
one of the 60 longest caves in the United States, Groaning Cave
represents a unique and fragile treasure. Perched atop a spectacular sub-alpine
limestone canyon, Groaning's network of crawls, fissures, domes and caverns
has drawn cavers to marvel at its wonders and explore its depths for more
than 40 years after discovery in 1968.
Although not technicaly difficult, Groaning is a very complex, cold,
strenuous high-altitude maze cave which can
pose serious challenges and dangers to the inexperienced or unwary caver.
Additionally, the cave is well-decorated in many places and thus susceptible to
irreparable damage from careless cavers.
Consequently, Groaning Cave is secured by a locked gate, for the protection of both
the cave and unprepared cavers. The lock combination is changed on a semi-weekly basis.
Qualified cavers may, upon approval, receive the current lock combination from any of
the Groaning Cave Contacts.
Please note that Groaning Cave is not closed, but visitors
must be able to demonstrate appropriate qualifications. A complete description
of the necessary requirement is provided below; in brief,
cavers must sign a liability waiver, be appropriately equipped, and (perhaps most
importantly) must have been on at least one previous trip to the cave with a qualified
Groaning Cave is cooporatively managed by the Colorado Cave Survey and the Eagle District
Ranger Office of the United States Forest Service, acting under a Memorandum of Understanding.
While the goals of the Groaning Cave management plan include the enjoyment of the cave through
recreation and exploration, long-term preservation of this unique natural wonder remains its
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Trip Regulations and Requirements
Cavers wishing to visit Groaning are required to fulfill the following:
- Sign a liability waiver which details many of the hazards which may
be experienced in the cave, and which emphasizes the delicate nature
of the cave. The waiver also describes the necessary equipment required,
prescribes limits on the size of any groups visiting the cave (no less
than 2, no greater than 6), and defines prohibited activities.
Groaning Cave waivers may be obtained by contacting one of the
listed below, or downloaded
here. (48 kB PDF).
Signed waivers should be emailed to:
Mary Klaus, maklaus00-at-hotmail-dot-com
- Be equipped with the appropriate caving equipment, as detailed in the
1985 Groaning Cave management plan.
Basically, this means a helmet, three sources of light, and suitable clothing.
- Be accompanied to the cave on your first visit by a qualified caver, and
demonstrate proper caving ability and etiquette. This requirement is intended
to provide protection to both the cave and the caver. Cavers who exhibit
a disregard for the cave environment may have their access privileges
Increased levels of degradation have been noted over the past
couple years, including instances of blatant vandalism and graffiti. Due
to this abuse of the cave, the Colorado Cave Survey has, under the explicit
direction of the U.S. Forest Service, decided to implement a more rigorous
screening of cave visitors. Be aware that requests for the Groaning combination
may lead to much more detailed questioning than has been customary over the
last several years. Callers may be asked about their caving experience, their
personal experience in Groaning, their trip objectives and destinations ... and
may be asked to provide references known to the Groaning Cave representative.
Please cave softly! Continued access to this Colorado gem depends on
each one of us doing our best to minimize our impact on this irreplacible resource.
Please note that previous announcements on this site regarding an
update/purge of the Groaning Cave waiver list are not longer valid.
The current waiver list will remain active, and there is no need to
sign a new waiver.
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Groaning Cave Contacts, 2013
Please contact the following individuals for access to Groaning Cave:
- Mary Klaus, maklaus00-at-hotmail-dot-com (waiver coordinator)
- Dave Lester, 303-771-8408, d.lester-at-usa-dot-net
- Randy Macan, 970-481-2315, randyjm-at-gmail-dot-com
- Pat Malone, 719-684-7756, pzmalone-at-pcisys-dot-net
- Charlie Zelenka, charlesz-at-sopris-dot-net
Please inform the webmaster of any updates to this information!
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Groaning Cave Visitation, 1980-2000
Larry Fish has published a
detailed study of Groaning Cave visitation for the period 1980-2000. This
is a fascinating work, and shows that although interest in the cave has surged
in the last few years, the total number of people entering the cave has remained
relatively stable over the past fifteen years.
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Groaning Cave Management Plan
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Return to the Colorado Cave Survey Homepage