Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time...
Copyright 2005 Brandon Kowallis
The database and associated web infrastructure that form the basis of the Utah Cave Survey was implemented in September 2005 by Duane McCully. It was formally organized as the 22nd Survey of the National Speleological Society by Brandon Kowallis in 2010. Its purpose is to catalog all natural caves with Utah and adjacent states. To this end, we aim to accurately locate, survey, and photograph all caves.

Cave Conservation

The Utah Cave Survey is committed to cave conservation. In addition to the principles found in the NSS Conservation Policy, we believe that safeguarding the locations of sensitive, ungated caves is an effective conservation tactic. We also support the findings, purposes, and policy of the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act.

Cave Mapping

Timpanogos Cave Plan View
Timpanogos Cave Profile View
A major activity of this enterprise is cave surveying and mapping. A cave is surveyed by moving through the cave and establishing a contiguous series of survey stations. At each of these stations, the distance to the next station is measured with a non-stretchable tape, the azimuth to the next station is measured with a compass, and the inclination to the next station is measured with a clinometer. Also, the distance to the floor, ceiling, and walls is measured and recorded. This quantitative information is then augmented by sketching a representation of the cave at each station showing details like curvature of the walls, formations, and water. This raw data is used is then processed by computer into a plan and profile view. This, in turn, is used to produce a final map.

The majority of the significant caves in Utah have already been mapped. The goal of the Utah Cave Survey is to collect these maps into a central repository and survey and produce maps for the caves that are not mapped.

On Station

The best way to learn how to survey and map caves is to participate in an active cave surveying project. There are some excellent tutorials how to produce a map at BrandonKowallis.com. A very good book that covers the surveying to map process end-to-end is On Station, available at the NSS Bookstore, among other places.


To be complete, a cave writeup not only needs a map, but it needs good photography. A simple image of the entrance is good enough for many caves. However, other caves will require more advanced techniques involving multiple exposures and multiple flashes.


Many Utah caves are worthy of a biological inventory. New and unique species have been discovered in the caves of northern Utah.

Utah Grottos

A great way to get involved with the Utah Cave Survey is to join a local grotto. They are the best way to become familiar with the caves of Utah. The Utah grottos are: Currently, the Utah Grotto and the Salt Lake Grotto are member grottos of the Utah Cave Survey.
Copyright © 2005-2014 Utah Cave Survey. All Rights Reserved.
Last updated 07/19/2011 - Duane A. McCully
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