Caving adventures with Dawn

You may not be able to voyage to the center of Earth, but some people go underground for fun. They explore caves, large areas hollowed out under Earth’s surface.


“Finding new life in caves is my most favorite aspect of caving,” Dawn says. Caves introduce many life forms to their visitors. Dawn sees plenty of life in the caves she explores. Puerto Rico’s Cueva de las Culebrones, or “Cave of the Snakes,” houses more than 300,000 bats, she recalls. At dusk, 7-foot-long boa snakes hang from the entrance to catch bats for dinner. Inside the cave, Dawn says the walls are covered with whip scorpions and cockroaches. It looks like the walls are moving!

Dawn likes to go caving in Iowa’s Coldwater Cave, too. In the summer, the northern passageway is flooded. But in the winter, the water lowers enough for cavers to float on their backs into the cave. Some cavers get nervous, but Dawn says, “When you’re in a cave, everyone looks out for each other.”

Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave is one of Dawn’s favorite caves because of the diverse formations and big passages. Native people, and Europeans later, mined for metals in this cave. You can still find clues to the presence of humans there. Dawn says, “When you walk through Mammoth Cave, you get the feeling of walking through time and history.”


Cavers should be well equipped before entering a cave, Dawn says. For example, a caver needs a helmet with a chinstrap and a headlight. Dawn suggests multiple sources of light. Why? She describes a recent experience when her headlamp went out. “Because I had the extra headlamp on my helmet,” she says, ” I was able to turn it on quickly and continue.”

A caver also needs heavy socks, layered clothing, sturdy boots, and knee and elbow pads. A large garbage bag with a hole cut for your head can be used for extra protection against mud or for warmth. Cavers often carry water-resistant backpacks to hold food, water, batteries, and first-aid supplies. Dawn also carries duct tape, because “it can be used for just about anything.”

With the proper equipment and preparation, caving is a safe, fun-filled adventure. “I don’t consider caving to be an extreme sport. And it isn’t as dangerous as jumping out of a plane,” Dawn says. She enjoys learning about cave animals and teaching others about them. After all, “caves are more than just muddy holes in the ground; they are filled with life.”

Visit a MYSTERIOUS world deep in our own a world full of life. DAWN RYAN is a seasoned caver. Let’s go caving with her.

People who adventure in caves were once called SPELUNKERS. Now they’re usually referred to as CAVERS.

DAWN became a caver at 16.


  • Some caves are filled with air, and others are filled with water.
  • Caves can be destroyed by light, air, bacteria, and people.
  • Most caves are formed when water runs through the ground, dissolves portions of soft rock, and forms a hollow path.

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