To obtain a permit to enter Illinois Caverns,
each individual must have proper caving equipment, including at the least,
three sources of light, hard hats and sturdy footwear. More equipment
recommendations can be found below.
The minimum group size is four persons,
for proper safety. Individuals age 17 and younger must have a parent or
guardian also sign the permit application. Youth groups must include one
adult for every five youths.
Signature of the permit application also
releases all landowners and employees from liability in the event of accident,
injury or damage. The permit application in its entirety can be found
Large Group Limitations
Groups of 25 or more must pre-register
before visiting Illinois Caverns. There are limitations as to the number
of large groups the cave is able to accommodate. Leaders of large groups
should make arrangements with the Site Interpreter as soon as possible
when planning a trip.
Planning your visit
When preparing for a trip to wild cave
such as Illinois Caverns, participants must be ready for much more than
a vigorous hike. Cave exploring can be hazardous to those who don’t take
the proper equipment, wear the right clothing or manage time correctly.
What to wear
Expect to get muddy and wet, and remember
that caving involves walking, crawling and climbing. Ideal apparel would
be a one-piece coverall made of a nylon blend rather than cotton. Coveralls
make for only one garment to clean after the trip, and nylon won’t retain
water as easily as cotton fabric or denim. A one-piece shell will retain
heat better, be easier to clean and won’t get snagged in crawlways like
a two-piece outfit. If coveralls are not available, old clothing may be
The temperature of Illinois Caverns is
that of typical caves, 55°- 60° F. Two or three layers of clothing should
be adequate for warmth while moving around on a cave trip to Illinois
Footwear is the second-most critical item
to consider for a fun cave trip. Choose boots with good ankle support,
lug soles (metal eyelets) and good traction. Remember that there may be
times when the cave passage requires walking THROUGH knee-deep water.
An old pair of hiking boots, with good traction, could be used as caving
Some cavers choose to wear neoprene socks
or scuba-diving booties to keep the feet warm, even though walking in
Gloves are necessary for protecting hands
as well as the cave. Canvas work gloves will make crawling easier and
also protect cave formations from the oils on human hands.
What to bring
The most important element for having
a fun trip to Illinois Caverns is adequate lighting. In the darkness of
the underground, a reliable primary light is essential, as well as TWO
backup lights (a candle does not count as a light source). The ideal light
is a waterproof light mounted to a helmet, allowing both hands free for
crawling, climbing, etc. A good waterproof D-cell or C-cell flashlight
will work for a primary light, with AA-cell flashlights as backups.
For underground cave exploring at Illinois
Caverns, a hard hat or helmet is a REQUIREMENT to be issued an exploration
permit. Ideal helmets are "fall-rated" and used by climbers
and cavers, with four-point chinstraps. An adequate hard hat with a two-point
chinstrap can be found at most home improvement stores.
A canteen of water, a candy bar, extra
batteries and a small garbage bag would be items to place in a small backpack
for caving. Disposable cameras could be placed in baggies inside the backpack.
(see the Cave Photography section, below)
A good caver is a self-contained unit,
with all his own backups and items necessary to enjoy a fun trip to Illinois
Managing your time
Illinois Caverns has specific operating
hours which visitors must adhere to as a condition of being issued an
exploration permit. The most important consideration is for cavers to
exit Illinois Caverns at least one half-hour before closing time of the
site. Visitors must be out of the cave by 2:30 P.M. and off the site by
Whether a cave trip to Illinois Caverns
begins at 8:30 A.M. or later in the afternoon, responsible visitors must
always be aware of the time. Wherever your exploring takes you in the
cave, and no matter at what pace, make sure that you allow adequate time
to be back at the cave entrance steps by at least 30 minutes before closing
Illinois Caverns, like all caves, is a
delicate ecosystem with many different forms of life thriving within.
Some spend all their lives inside a cave. These animals, like cavefish,
are called troglodytes. Some spend most of their lives in a cave, but
venture outside at times. Bats are the most common example of troglophyles.
A third group of animals lives mainly outside, but ventures into a cave
for periods of time. Snakes, which might use a cave as a hibernaculum,
would be an example of troglytes.
In addition to the many species of bats
which inhabit Illinois Caverns, other animals like raccoons, possums and
snakes use the cave at times. Several salamander species exist in Illinois
Caverns, as well as sculpins and blind cavefish. The endangered Illinois
Cave Amphipod, gammerus acherondytes, is one of several species of amphipod
in the cave, and there are numerous kinds of insects.
There aren’t many WRITTEN rules about
caving etiquette. Although there are several UNwritten reminders, they
all boil down to safety, common sense and politeness.
When on a cave trip, participants must
remember that although each caver is a self-contained unit, they are still
a team. As such, each must be cognizant of the others in case of hypothermia
or overexertion. Each also must accept the help of the team if he is the
one having trouble.
As self-contained units, it’s good caving
etiquette to not ask other cavers for supplies (or food) which you should
remembered ahead of time. Think ahead!
When moving through the cave, try to have
as minimal an impact on the cave as possible and remember that others
will be using the resource.
Try to not shine your light source in the eye’s of other
cavers, even by accident. Another person could be momentarily blinded,
fall and injure himself.