The longest cave in Colorado, you’ll find Groaning Cave on White River National Forest land in Garfield County.
In total, Groaning Cave consists of nearly 15 miles of surveyed tunnels. Keep in mind that the difficult nature of tracking tunnels in caves could mean that many more miles exist, but are yet to be documented. Even at close to 15 miles, this puts Groaning Cave in the top 60 longest caves in the country.
Discovered in 1968, Groaning Cave has attracted spelunkers to its caverns for decades. It’s known for its intricate nature, found on top of an amazing sub-alpine limestone canyon. Navigating the cave takes visitors through a number of domes, caverns, and sections that must be crawled.
As to why this cave is called Groaning Cave, a 1973 book, Cave of Colorado, mentions that early visitors reported a groaning noise come from the cave. It was later determined that this was caused by wind.
Here’s a video that gives an awesome look at this natural destination:
If you’re interested in checking out this cave – you’re in luck…this is something that can happen. That being said, due to the dangerous nature of spelunking and the complex nature of this cave in particular, you’ll need special permission. It’s also worth mentioning that this is NOT A CAVE FOR BEGINNERS. This can be obtained from April 16 to August 14 by completing a registration and authorization process.
Once you’ve gotten authorization, you’ll need to get the code to enter through a secure gate that covers this cave’s opening. This can be done by requesting a trip to the cave with the Colorado Cave Survey of the National Speleological Society. At this point, skill level becomes a factor in approval due to the difficultly level of navigating the cave.
Happy spelunking – however, if you choose to explore this cave (or any other cave), you should be aware of something called “white nose syndrome.” This is a fungal disease that’s killing bats, first detected in New York in 2006. It has since spread to more than half of the country and has an extremely high fatality rate. One way that this disease is transferred is via contaminated gear from cavers exploring in a state with white nose syndrome and then coming to explore in a state, like Colorado, that has yet to have the issue. This makes proper decontamination of gear essential to protecting our bats. Here’s more information about decontamination.
It’s also important to mention that the remote nature of Groaning Cave makes it difficult to maintain. If you plan a visit, make sure you go through the proper channels and make sure you leave no trace. Protect this natural and fragile ecosystem should be at the forefront of your mind during your visit.
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