Baker Correspondence – February 2017

Lehman Caves Lint and Restoration Camp

                                                                   A Lint Camp volunteer dusting a shield in Lehman Caves

It’s winter, which means visitation is low, despite a record-breaking 130,000 visitors to Great Basin National Park last year. That makes it an ideal time for the annual Lehman Caves Lint and Restoration Camp. For three days, people come and help clean and restore the cave.

  Volunteers cleaning the Cypress Swamp in Lehman Caves

Over 30,000 people a year tour the cave, each of them leaving behind a little unintentional something: a hair or two, some debris falling off shoes, bits of lint floating off clothes, or trash coming out of pockets. This detritus is often found near the cave trail, but sometimes there is so much it drifts on air currents to other parts of the cave. The lint and debris provide an artificial food source for cave biota, ares unsightly, and can even alter the geologic processes by which speleothems grow.

From January 10 through 12, thirteen participants participated in the Lehman Caves Lint and Restoration Camp. Participants came  from as close as the local community and from as far away as Southern California. Some found “antique” lint high above the Music Room, clinging to stalactites and making them look wooly. Cave shields were dusted in the Tom Tom Room, each shield providing a dust pan a quarter full with dust and lint. Four staircases were cleaned, providing a great amount of debris, even though they were just cleaned last year. Dry pools in the Cypress Swamp were cleaned, with rocks taken out and scrubbed and the original bottoms found.

Stalactite before & after dust and lint removal. The horn-like formations on the right side and base of this stalactite are a type of helictites.

In many cases, bits of the old wooden trail were found scattered on the cave floor. In return for this cleaning, participants felt a deep sense of satisfaction for helping improve the cave. Participants also were treated to trips to off-trail sections of the cave that are seldom visited.

Because of the great amount of interest, a second lint camp will be held February 10-12 to clean even more of the cave. Lint camps are expected to continue into the future. They are usually held in the winter because there are fewer cave tours, some park housing is available, and the cave feels very pleasant at 50 degrees F.

To be added to the mailing list, email GRBA_Lint_Camp@nps.gov. Also, check out the Park’s Facebook page for the latest news and photos.

And you can check out the progress of the Lint and Restoration Camps on any tour of Lehman Caves. Tours are held year round, and in winter they rarely fill up.

— Gretchen Baker

(Check out Gretchen’s outdoor adventure blog, The Desert Survivor.)

NevadaGram from the Nevada Travel Network © 2017