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Modern Uses of Caves

at Onondaga Cave State Park

Lily Pad Room inside Onondaga CaveToday, caves are used mainly for scientific research and recreation.

  1. Many people rely on wells for their drinking water, and the underground movement of water through caves is studied to prevent wells from becoming polluted.
  2. Biologists study cave food chains to understand the cave ecosystem, and to better understand the more complicated food webs of the surface.
  3. The cave animals are studied to see how they survive with so little food and no light. Rare and endangered animals are studied and protected.
  4. Sinkholes form natural animal traps, therefore, the bones of extinct animals are found in caves. There are six or seven bone sites in Onondaga Cave.
  5. Looking at rock from the inside out, we get a better picture of the forces that have shaped our earth.
  6. Many people enjoy visiting caves. Most take commercial cave tours, but some people enjoy exploring wild caves. These people are called cavers or spelunkers. They know that caves can be dangerous, so they wear hard hats to protect their heads. They always carry three sources of lights, so that they don't get lost in the dark. They are always careful not to damage the fragile cave environment, and so protect the beautiful calcite deposits and tiny animals. Respecting the cave, they also respect people and always get permission before visiting a cave. People can get permission to explore caves in state parks by applying for a cave permit. Some people who go into caves do not follow the rules, and it is easy to see the damage that they do.

Organized cavers have a motto:

Take nothing, but pictures.
Leave nothing, but footprints.
Kill nothing, but time.