Jamaican Caving Notes
June 15, 2004
NIAGARA RIVER CAVE
Position: South Entrance: WGS84 - 18 16' 01.8" N, 77 48' 59.6" W, +/- 5m
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, D. K. Roggy, E. Slack
Time in: 15:00 EST, Time out: 16:05 EST
THREAT VULNERABILITY: Medium
Niagara River Cave was the third cave visited this day, after Nodewood Cave 2, and Nodewood Rising. We were assisted in the visits by the employees of a flower nursery that owns much land in the district. Of these, Delroy Wright was especially helpful.
A NWC pumping station is located at the south entrance of Niagara River Cave, in a valley that has steep hills rising to the north. On the far side of these hills is more bottomland, with resurgences on the northeast, that disappear in sinks and caves on the southwest, collectively called the Blue Hole Glade Caves. These in turn are fed by a stream that sinks one kilometre north, after having flowed above-ground for a couple of km's, after having been underground for a km. The whole works ultimately starts in the Garlands district and has a total vertical drop of about 70 metres to the Niagara River Cave south entrance.
Dietrich, Elizabeth, and myself were at the south entrance, and heading in at 3:00 PM. The entrance is a few metres high and wide, and leads directly into a passage with an outward flowing stream. The water is of no great depth and can be waded through. This passage runs through well-bedded, hard limestone, and at first trends east and is fairly wide, over 5 m, with plenty of headroom, until after about 50 m, the passage becomes more restricted and swings north. From this point on, the ceiling of the passage is lower, forcing one down closer to the water.
A substantial passage links-up on the NW side, in the area where the original passage constricts, and other smaller passages join from both sides, causing this cave to be rather complex on a first visit. I used flags judiciously on the way in, (collected on the way out), to avoid getting us lost in small watery passages during the midst of the rainy-season. This factor, June flood-risk, prevented us from exploring as thoroughly as we would have liked, but things were safe enough that we were able to have a good look at the biology of the cave.
Sesarma Verleyi, cave crabs, were plentiful throughout. There is a good supply of nutrients into this cave from upstream sinks, in the form of twigs, leaves, and the things that raft in on them, and the Blue Hole Caves are acting as a silt-trap, so water clarity is good and food is abundant. Due to the upstream nature of the cave, there is no rafted garbage. Waters that enter at the Blue Hole Glade are free of human debris, due to the Glade being primarily regenerating forest, with no human residents. Waters that enter from underground sources other than the Glade, (as appears to be the case as will be seen in the Blue Hole Glade notes), have travelled through passages and fissures small enough that garbage from Garlands has been filtered out.
Neoditomyia farri, (predaceous fly larvae), were abundant. Pholcidae of undetermined species were present. Unfortunately, Periplaneta americana, (American roaches), were present although they hadn't totally overrun the place. No bats were seen, the low wet passages not supplying suitable habitat, but in terms of stygobites and troglobites, this a biologically valuable cave that is still in fairly good shape.
The more notable formations seen are helictites in higher parts of the passages where flooding apparently does not occur. The downstream section of the cave has two resurgences, (the southern and northern entrances), with the south resurgence serving as the main exit for the river, and the north resurgence becoming more active in times of very heavy rains, (this will be addressed in the notes for the following day, when we visited the north section). It seems as though the water never "backs-up" enough to entirely flood this cave. Stalactites and flowstone are also present.
It should be noted that the 1970 JCC map is a sketch plan and this cave should have a proper survey done at some point. It is probable that sections of the system remain unexplored. We certainly saw possibilities not indicated on the map in JU.
I've listed this cave as having a medium vulnerablity because of the siltation that would occur if intensive agriculture were to take place in the Blue Hole Glade. Conservation guidelines that would ensure that the Glade continues its recovery from it's formerly logged state would be of value.
By the time we were out of the cave and had obtained a GPS position, it was approaching 4:30 PM, so we called it quits. We made arrangements for our return the next day, and headed out.
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