Spring Valley Caverns

 

Goliath's Cave

Goliath's Cave is an extensive Fillmore County Minnesota cave system which was discovered, documented and surveyed by Minnesota cavers. Access to the cave had been banned after the goverment purchased it in 1988. In 2004 the Minnesota Cave Preserve acquired several surface acres above the cave, including 358 subsurface cave rights, and created a second entrance. The upper level of the cave has large dry passages, in contrast to the occasionally turbulent lower stream levels. Numerous underground stream tributaries conjoin within the lower level, and over thousands of years have sculpted a series of expansive winding passages. After numerous discoveries were made by the Minnesota Caving Club, the final surveyed length of the cave system stands at 2.39 miles.

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View the MAP

   

Banned!
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This is the natural entrance to Goliath's Cave where the main cave system was originally discovered. It is now in possession of the Division of Natural Resources/SNA.

After the DNR/SNA purchased the natural cave entry site and the surrounding 40 acres the property was promptly posted. Cavers keep out!
DNR/SNA signs
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Posted sign
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Even though cavers discovered, surveyed, and photo documented the cave we were specifically shut out.
DNR/SNA gate just inside the sinkhole entrance.
The gate they installed
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Venita and family
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Venita Sikkink (adjacent property owner) and her family were aware that they owned a significant portion of Goliath's Cave and did not want cavers and scientists restricted. John Ackerman was notified of their intentions, which led to numerous meetings where options were discussed.

The map held in the photo shows a portion of the Goliath Cave system. The SNA used the map that cavers created and overlaid topographical features onto it.

Subsequently the Sikkink family made the decision to sell John Ackerman several surface acres above the cave so a second access could be created.

In addition, 358 subsurface cave rights to the cave system were included.

This photo was taken at Spring Valley Caverns.

Venita and family go caving
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Lowering camera
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It was relatively simple to locate the cave under the Sikkink property using the accurate surveyed map that cavers had previously generated. After a painstaking precise above-ground survey was conducted, a test hole (drilled by a quarry drill rig) verified that we were directly above the cave.

A large void was encountered at 75 feet. John Ackerman and Dave Gerboth lower a special camera down the hole to identify the target and determine the exact position for the new entry shaft.

At 91 years old, Ventia Sikkink just can't wait to get this project done! She stands at the future entry site.
We will drill here
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New access site
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Drilling of the new entrance takes place right across the road from the DNR/SNA property. The new entry shaft will be 30 inches in diameter.
This is no small task. The largest well drilling firm in the Upper Midwest is contracted to accomplish the project.
Drilling into cave
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John at the helm
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John Ackerman
This rare 2-part 30" diameter bit is used to drill the shaft after a stabilizer system is installed.
Rare 30 inch bit
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Installing and leveling case
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Leveling the case before grouting with cement. This is the second such entrance project Thein Well has done for us.
A thick steel lid with locking mechanism is installed.
Installing lid
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Installing ladders
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Custom ladder sections were manufactured for the project.
The ladder sections were attached to the shaft using custom made brackets.
Bolting ladders to case
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Wow!
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Never say never.
The new Minnesota Cave Preserve signs are installed directly across from the DNR/SNA signs. Once again exploration and scientific studies can resume.
Dueling signs
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We the people?
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"We The People?"

"We The People"
We the people
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Restored Prairie Entrance
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The new entrance site was restored to a natural prairie, and stands in stark contrast to the weed infested government field across the road.

Adventure writer Cary Griffith recounts the riveting story of how cave explorer John Ackerman created David's entrance into Goliath's Cave, effectively circumventing government control of the cave.

Opening Goliath
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--- Underground ---


Main Passage
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Almost all of the cave passages under the Minnesota Cave Preserve property are spacious. The ceilings can rise over 100 feet!
The water and air temperature are always 48 degrees, no matter what the weather is above ground.
We stay warm in wetsuits
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Breakdown collapse
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These slabs probably crashed down thousands of years ago.
Portions of the main passage (The Rubicon) can get quite deep.
We can hear the water below
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Don't slip!
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As the main passage trends east the stream cuts deeper through the rock.
Finally an incredible waterfall is encountered.
Several fish were seen swimming in the pool below the falls.
You can swim under it
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Growth appears in certain months
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Scientists are analyzing the white growth on the walls in an attempt to understand what it is and what causes it.
Lower level of Goliath’s Cave
Several thousand feet long
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Ther are two ways to travel the passage
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Lower level of Goliath’s Cave
This cave is alive and vibrant!
The sounds echo down the passage
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SNA impact
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This tire was washed deep into the cave from one of numerous sinkholes located under the SNA/DNR property.

Surface debris continues to flow into the cave through sinkholes located on the SNA property.

Water swirled around this pocket, causing a thin layer of calcite to form over thousands of years.
White color forms in total blackness
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Noisy passage due to rapids
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There are at least 10 known stream passages that eventually converge into the Rubicon Passage.
What a treat to see and hear this!
colorful small rocks on floor
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Will this lead to miles of cave passages?
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This deep pool of water has prevented us from continuing ahead. We will need to follow it with SCUBA gear.
It takes a team effort to crack the sump. All participants shown here are divers. Three are certified cave divers.
A team effort
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No room for error
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John Preston, a certified cave diver, prepares to dive under the sump. Since the disturbed water is inky black, he will have to feel his way through the water filled chambers in hopes of encountering air filled passages.
He checks his watch. He will need to turn back within 30 minutes.
This requires many years experience
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We get nervous just watching
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He makes sure his breathing apparatus is functional and the safety line is securely positioned in his hand. If he looses this line he may become hopelessly lost in the total blackness and not find his way back.
Cave diving is considered the most dangerous sport in the world.
He could get wedged in a tight crack
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Good luck
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If the bubbles cease we know he has either popped up into an air filled passage or has drowned.
Extreme danger
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This may enter a new area
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After groping through a maze of subterranean passages Preston surfaces into a new cave segment. He quickly returns with fantastic news.

Later, John Ackerman also dons SCUBA gear, retraces Preston's route and together they explore and survey over 1/3 mile of stupendous breathtaking passage. Ackerman names this new branch of Goliath's Cave the "Iconoclast" section.

Click here to read the entire account.

John Preston in the Iconoclast Section. This portion of the cave was formed in the Stewartville rock strata.
Iconoclast Section
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Iconoclast Section
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John Prestoon in the Iconoclast Section.

In February 2005 John Ackerman and Clay Kraus decided to focus on a remote unsurveyed portion of the cave, which contained a broad lake. It had been theorized that some of the outbuildings on the Sikkink homestead may actually lie in the vicinity above this region. A special cave radio locater, capable of transmitting through 150ft of solid rock, was transported to the site.
Part of huge lake
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We could drown here
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This photo captures John setting up a makeshift marker in a nearby passage, which would display rising water levels. Several additional inches of water could sump nearby passages, trapping or drowning cavers.

After the location readings were obtained and verified on the surface John and Clay made their return journey through the cave system and back out into the crisp winter air.

Brr!

He is wearing a wetsuit
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Should we pound the stake in?
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John, Clay and Dave Gerboth wasted no time in retracing the survey data on the surface. The final tape and compass reading led directly to the Sikkink home, where it terminated in Venitta's kitchen.

It is now known that the largest body of water in the cave lies directly under the 130 year old home! This was a bizarre revelation given the fact that over two miles of convoluted cave passages stretch through thick forested and hilly terrain before ending in a huge lake directly under the home.

 

Also in 2005 an extensive dry upper level was discovered after digging through several dirt filled constrictions located upstream from the man made entrance.
Here Dave begins to enter an unknown passage after pulling the dirt away.

Entering new discovery
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A major new section of cave
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He was immediately greeted by a groggy bat! Our subsequent survey revealed that this bat had flown into the passage from connecting SNA/DNR passages. We had inadvertently discovered another major section of cave for the SNA/DNR.

A few years later John ventured through the main low (and nearly water filled) downstream passage in his quest to locate the miles of passages that dye tracing has proven exist.

Downstream
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A major new section of cave
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John discovered a 20’ tall dome along the side of the stream passage and spotted a gap near the ceiling. John felt that it could be entered using the right gear.

 

 

A special grappling hook was constructed, which John managed to toss up through the gap. John climbed up the rope which was attached to the grapping hook and discovered a 42’ tall room with a 6’ tall passage leading off into the distance.
Later a cable ladder was installed in this dome as shown here.

After 52’ John was stopped by a rock blockage, but was eventually able to break through. He moved forward for a short distance and then climbed up into an amazing dry upper level. READ THE STORY


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Scaling Grappling Dome
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Breakthrough!
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David Gerboth and Clay Kraus in the newly discovered upper level.

Over one quarter mile was surveyed. The survey revealed that this dry upper level lies directly above the main lower stream passage.

Entering new discovery
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An easier route
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An easier route up to the new upper level was discovered from the main Rubicon stream passage. This ladder was subsequently installed down to the Rubicon passage.

In the meantime continual flood events are occurring at the sinkhole entrance to Goliath’s Cave on the SNA/DNR property. This is especially harmful to the cave environment, especially during the summer and fall seasons, when copious amounts of soil and debris wash into the cave.

Flood Event
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Debris  enters cave
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Sediment, glass, plastic and assorted debris races through the SNA/DNR portion of the cave and is deposited in the Minnesota Cave Preserve’s lower section.

This is what the sinkhole entrance looks like after a major flood event. The sinkhole has sealed itself naturally, effectively acting as a filter for water intrusion.

Collapsed after flood.
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A poor choive.
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And yet the SNA/DNR spends our tax dollars to continually reopen this sinkhole under the premise that it serves as an access to the cave. A simple safe, secure and water tight man-made entrance, which the Minnesota Cave Preserve has offered to install for no charge, is not an option for the SNA/DNR. Surface debris continues to pollute this once pristine underground wilderness. The SNA/DNR is in direct violation of their own policy, which states that: “Any activity that violates or damages resources - air, water, soil, plants, animals, and rocks - is punishable by fine or jail sentence.”


Goliath's Cave History
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