Spring Valley Caverns

 

Tyson Spring Cave

Tyson Spring Cave, located in S.E. Minnesota, is a historically significant cave, which has captivated local inhabitants for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. A major stream flows out of its remote picturesque entrance, located at the base of towering limestone cliffs. In 1987 explorers successfully pushed through a water filled passage and walked along miles of breathtaking passages. Due to the water filled constriction, exploration and survey efforts were extremely sporadic until this cave system was purchased by the Minnesota Cave Preserve and a safe entrance shaft was created. After exploration is complete and a survey is conducted it is thought that this cave system will be 3.5-5 miles in length. In 2008 cave explorers unearthed rare extinct ice-age bones, resulting in the most significant scientific finding in any Upper Midwest cave. Tyson Spring Cave is one of the most important Pleistocene sites in the Northern United States.

Read the STORY (How the cave was discovered.)

Read the ARTICLE (Bone discoveries make front page news.)

Read the HISTORY

   

Historical Photo
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This is the earliest photo of Tyson Spring Cave in existence. It was taken by a local Chatfield, MN photographer in the 1870’s using a new stereoview method. The man in the photo may indeed be Mr. Tyson himself.

Aaron Brueck and Roger Kehret stand in front of the cave mouth. (Circa 1980’s) Roger theorized that if the rock talus were removed from the stream just outside the mouth of the cave it would cause the water level inside the cave to recede slightly. This would allow explorers to venture beyond a water filled passage located about 900 feet inside the cave.
Early Photo
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1980's
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Aaron Brueck stands in front of the stream resurgence. Roger and Aaron have removed a lot of rock, however the water was still too high in the cave to allow access beyond the water filled passage.
Fellow cavers Larry Laine and Steve Porter used SCUBA to dive through the water filled passage in 1985. When they returned they reported that the large main cave passage continued for an undetermined length. In Sept. 1987 Roger Kehret, Dave Gerboth and John Ackerman were successful in lowering the water enough so that an air gap developed in the water filled passage. John was the first non-diver to enter the cave and explore deep into the cave system. After exploring for miles, John located the “end” of the cave. The main passage was again blocked by water. Here John passes through the air gap near the beginning of the cave.
Passing through low airspace.
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Removing talus pile.
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Nineteen years passed before John returned to Tyson Spring Cave. Since the main cave passage was once again impassable due to high water, John Ackerman, Clay Kraus, Ted Ford, Dave Gerboth and Charles Graling removed the talus pile so entry could be made once again. John began negotiations with the landowner to purchase the cave.

John ventured deep into the cave to survey for a suitable man-made shaft entrance. A rope was strung through the low air space as a safety precaution.

Rope guide required.
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Cave passes through homesite.
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Using sophisticated underground equipment it was learned that the cave passed through the landowner’s farmyard.
In fact, the main passage passed directly under his barn. He requested that we locate a more suitable entrance site.
Cave passes under barn.
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Future Entrance
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And so we did. This site is located just west of the barn, but a sufficient distance away to create some privacy.
The proposed new entrance spot was pinpointed inside the cave using specialized equipment. This unique radio gear sends signals through solid rock, which can be captured and deciphered by surface personnel using a fine tuned antenna.
It was calculated that the cave ceiling was 114-feet below the surface.
Signal to surface.
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The future entry site.
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Corn is removed near the proposed entry site and a red flag is planted at the exact place that the new shaft will be drilled
A test hole is drilled to verify the accuracy. The cave passage was located 114-feet directly below the drill bit!
Drilling test hole.
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An infrared camera is lowered down the hole to confirm that the new entrance will be in the exact spot as planned. Note the barn in the background
Loose soil is removed down to the limestone layer and a rig designed to install steel casing handles the task. Now another drilling rig can park over the top of the steel casing, and can continue the access shaft straight down.
Installing Case
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Main Drill Rig
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The heavy duty drill rig is poised to begin drilling the 30” diameter access shaft.
The drill rig can be seen towards the left of the photo.
View from road.
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Drilling 30" diameter shaft.
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Charles Graling at the controls.

--- Underground ---


New Entrance
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The new entrance.

Ancient formation.
Ancient Formation
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Numerous Formations
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Located within feet of entrance.

The sights and sounds are breathtaking.
Pristine wall flow.
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And then I saw God.
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The cave system is highly decorated with pristine formations.
Passages in this cave are very spacious.
The temperature of the constantly flowing stream is 48 degrees.
Passages are large.
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A long and perfectly straight passage.
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A long straight passage deep in Tyson Spring Cave.
Access to this cave system is restricted to only a few visits per year in order to maintain the pristine environment.
Formations everywhere.
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Majestic formations
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Majestic formations serve as the gateway leading deeper into the cave.
Huge limestone slabs.
Breakdown
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There are many calcite dams in the cave
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Climbing over one of numerous calcite dams along the main stream passage.
Broad expanse of calcite flowstone.
Calcite Flow
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Cimbing Domes
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Doctor Jay Kennedy was the first to climb a tall dome located about 2.5 miles from the entrance of the cave. The dome ceiling was found to be approximately 70’ above the cave floor. An upper level horizontal passage was discovered at the top, but has not yet been explored.
A massive dry room located 5 minutes from the new entrance.
Huge Dry Room
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Lead
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There are numerous water inlets that feed into the main stream passage. Because most inlets originate from undiscovered tall dome pits, explorers will follow this lead in an attempt to discover another dome.
Dave Gerboth encounters an incredible dome located towards the rear of the cave system.
incredible dome
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Sighn
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This sign was hung at the natural (now gated) entrance of the cave.
This custom built gate was installed at the natural entrance of the cave.
Gate
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Discovered antler
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In April 2008 Clay Kraus, John Ackerman and Dave Gerboth unearthed a prehistoric ice-age moose antler at this site while excavating moist clay from a side passage they were exploring. Read the account
John Ackerman shows off the 27,000 year old Stag-moose antler at the 120’ deep entrance to the cave.
Moose antler
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Science museum
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David Mather, national register archaeologist with the MN Historical Society, examines the antler at the St. Paul Science Museum.
Nothing compared to this ancient specimen, and so it was sent to the world renowned ILL State Museum for inspection.
Comparing specimens
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Bone collection
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The antler was identified as belonging to an extinct ice age Stag-moose. (Cervalces scotti) Never before had remains of this solitary browser been discovered in this region of the United States.
Paleontologists across the United States were astounded at the discovery, because remains of this extinct species had never been discovered in this region of the United States.

Several months after unearthing the antler, part of a sabre-tooth cat skull (Smilodon fatalis) was discovered about 250 feet from the antler site. The asst. curator of the ILL State Museum, Chris Widga, was present during the discovery and transported the skull back to the museum, where the identification was established. The specimen was then forwarded to the Rafter Radiocarbon National Isotope Center in New Zealand for dating.
Sabre-tooth cat
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Cat scapula
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Chris Widga, right, was present as another sabre-tooth cat bone was discovered about 1.5 miles from the original skull site. The Isotope Center determined that the skull was 27,000 years old. The date was shocking, but even more profound was the fact that the nearest sabre-tooth cat remains that have ever been found were in northern Arkansas. This revelation sent shock waves through the scientific community. Tyson Spring Cave is now one of the most important Pleistocene sites in the Northern United States.

Over 175 bones have now been discovered in Tyson Spring Cave and nearby Bat River Cave, resulting in the most significant scientific finding in any Upper Midwest cave.

In April 2009 Penn State lab successfully amplified and sequenced DNA from the sabre-tooth cat skull. This is a profound event, and may be the first time that DNA has been extracted from a North American sabre-tooth cat.

Bones
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Media attention
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News of the discovery was eventually released to the media and was widely broadcast. Major radio and T.V. stations also reported the fantastic findings.
Read the ARTICLE
Rochester Post
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SV Tribune
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Pioneer Press
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Bone collection
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READ THE STORY

In September 2009 geneticists meticulously deciphered the amplified and sequenced DNA from the sabre-tooth cat skull. They were astonished to find a 100% match to Homotherium serum, a saber-toothed cat that was even more rare than the Smilodon fatalis in the North American record. This is the first such specimen from the Great Lakes/Midwest region.
Homotheriumserum
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Bone collection
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READ THE INTERNATIONALY PUBLICIZED REPORT

Genetic Clues from Sabercat Bones by National Geographic.

Read the ARTICLE

Homotheriumserum
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Tyson Spring Cave History
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