Solving the Enigma of Engel Hill Inside Fort Stanton Cave, NM

Starting in 1962 a dig in an airy dead-end passage continued on and off for 7 years, eventually opening Babb’s Burrow into the Lincoln Caverns passage of Fort Stanton Cave. This was the most remote place in the cave. At the far end of a large decorated trunk, a massive breakdown collapse called Engel Hill terminated the trend while air continued. A dig in the 1970s continued upward using screwed-together steel pipes to probe overhead breakdown, but dire conditions killed enthusiasm. It wasn’t until Snowy River (SR) was discovered in 2001 that the true nature of Fort Stanton Cave began to be realized in the south.

The Dome 12 Dig Project

Dome 12 is a sinkhole on the Northeastern Cave Conservancy’s Merlins Cave Preserve and has been a Spring and Fall dig since 2016. Working after a sinkhole washout, the Berkshire Area Diggers Association has been excavating rocks and gravel in search of a way into presumed passage downstream of the main Merlins Cave, which has a few thousand feet of nice marble passages. With some stabilizing, creative engineering, and persistence, the crew got into some passage in Dome 12 at the end of 2019, which has ongoing digs in two downstream directions.