Friday, October 23, 2020
Quakes Shake Craters
The Indian Tunnel is the easiest for visitors to access—when it’s open. PHOTO: Craters of the Moon
Monday, September 14, 2020


Craters of the Moon National Monument’s caves are among its most popular attractions.

But the caves, created thousands of years ago as hot explosive magma forced its way to the surface leaving tubes behind, have become increasingly off limits.

First, officials closed many of the caves in the area to protect bat populations. Then they instituted a  screening procedure among visitors to help prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome in those that remained open. Humans are potential carriers of the bat-killing fungus.

This spring park rangers closed the four caves that were open to visitors due to social distancing challenges posed by COVID-19.

Now, it’s anyone’s guess when the caves might reopen. Park officials say the caves’ structural stability was affected by the 6.5 earthquake that struck Shake Creek in the Cape Horn area northwest of Stanley on March 31.

A staffer confirmed that they have found notable concerns in Indian Tunnel, which is the largest of the tunnels open to the public. They’ve also detected possible problems in Boy Scout Cave, which forces visitors to scramble through a small crawl space. Problems include loose rock and a fracture that could collapse.

Eric Bilderback, a Parks Service geomorphologist, plans to carry out additional evaluations this fall.

Meanwhile, the quakes keep on coming.

The latest occurred took place last Monday when six quakes hit the Stanley-Lowman area at 2:24 p.m. The strongest was a 4.4 quake in Bear Valley, which sits between Stanley and Lowman. Another--a 3.9 quake--struck 23 miles north of Stanley.

Multiple earthquakes have taken place in the area since the first on March 31. A few have even toppled natural landmarks, such as the Baron Spire, which once sat above the Baron Lakes near Grandjean.



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