In Iowa, United States
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The Flint Creek valley near Starr’s Cave has been a popular area even before pioneers settled there in 1840s. Efforts to turn the Starr’s Cave area into a park began in 1924. The state finally purchased the property in 1974, turning management over to Des Moines County Conservation.
A cave or cavern is a natural underground void large enough for a human to enter. Some people suggest that the term 'cave' should only apply to cavities that have some part which does not receive daylight; however, in popular usage, the term includes smaller spaces like sea caves, rock shelters and grottos.
Millions of years ago much of the state of Iowa was covered by a shallow sea. Deposits of tiny marine animals and plants on the sea floor formed thick layers of limestone. When exposed to weather, these layers of limestone became the world's best "cave forming" rock. Rainwater, mixed with carbon dioxide in the air and soil, formed a mild acid which slowly worked its way into cracks in the limestone and began to dissolve passages.
Most people don't realize that caverns are important ecosystems which harbor a variety of rare and endangered species. Cavern systems also contain significant archeological artifacts, fragile mineral formations, and easily contaminated water supplies. Caves are susceptible to vandalism, looting by artifact hunters, and just plain carelessness when exploring. The water and animal life in caves can easily be impacted by sewage, illegal dumping in sinkholes, uncontrolled soil erosion, chemical spills, and agricultural run off
Devils Kitchen and Crinoid Cavern are both man-made, the work of a mining company. Starr’s Cave once extended for hundreds of yards underground. It may have been used to shelter escaped slaves as part of the underground railroad, and might have been a hideout for a gang of horse thieves in the 1850s.
Today, much of the cave has collapsed, leaving a 100-yard-long tunnel that is home to several species of bats. Cave explorers will want to take flashlights and should be prepared to crawl most of the way. The cave is closed from October to April to protect hibernating bats.
Starr’s Cave Park & Preserve is part of the Audubon Society’s Great River Trail, and is considered an excellent place to see migrating songbirds, woodland hawks, and herons. Other forest residents include deer, wild turkeys, foxes, rabbits, raccoons, beavers, flying squirrels, and wood ducks.
Throughout the 184 acre park, you will find two miles of hiking trails. Starr’s Cave Nature Center is the county’s award winning environmental education center, featuring interactive exhibits, classrooms and meeting rooms, a library, and many resources for nature lovers. The Trail of the Little People is a self-guided learning experience; pick up a guidebook in the nature center. The ¼-mile Rossiter Trail is paved for easy handicap accessibility, amphitheater, and nature center are also easily accessible.
Stay on the trails!!
Cliffs are made of
It is dangerous and illegal
to climb them.
An Iowa Geologic Preserve
Starr’s Cave is one of two Iowa Geologic Preserves. Rock formations along Flint Creek are found nowhere else in the world. The bluffs bordering the creek are composed mainly of limestone and dolomite. The Starr’s cave member, part of the Wassonville Formation—is filled with the fossilized remains of brachiopods, crinoids, cup coral and gastropods. These prehistoric sea creatures are preserved in the rock and protected by law, which forbids the removal of any rocks, fossils, or artifacts from the park.
Sign at cave entrance
More recently the cave has been used by people. In 1876 the “Hawkeye” reported that outlaws were hiding out in the cave. It has been a popular place for scout troops to visit. Today hundreds of people every year crawl more than 100 yards to the back of the cave. Besides fossils you may also see stalactites hanging from the ceiling, or bats sleeping overhead. If you crawl all the way to the back – which might be a tight squeeze for some – there is a room.
Starr’s Cave Bats
As many as six species of bats – mostly big and little brown bats, red bats, grey bats, and the endangered Indiana bats roost in the cave in the summer time and hibernate here in the winter. The cave maintains a fairly constant 55 degree temperature year round, offering relief from summer heat and warmth in the cold winter. The cave is to cold to shelter snakes and most insects.
Most people’s fears about bats are based on myth. None of the bats here are dangerous to humans. They all eat insects and help protect against mosquitos and agricultural pests. If you see a bat in the cave leave it alone so that it can keep eating bugs another day.
The Educational Center is open. Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. April - September. A Map and Guide for the park can usually be found inside the lower entrance door, however this guide is not required to get information for this cache.
To log this cache:
1: Download a photo of yourself, or team at ground zero.
2: From the sign above ground zero, answer the following. If you go to the back of the cave, there is a large room. How many people will it hold? This cave was formed thousands of years ago and continues today. What process formed this cave?
DO NOT put answers to these questions in your log. Please email them to the cache owner.
All questions must be answered correctly and photo must be included or your post will be deleted.
I have used sources available to me by using google search to get information for this earth cache. I am by no means a geologist. I use books, internet, and asking questions about geology just like 99.9 percent of the geocachers who create these great Earth Caches.
(No hints available.)
Last Updated: on 7/5/2015 1:21:44 PM Pacific Daylight Time (8:21 PM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum