Witchcliffe

The most extensive caving area in the south-west is the Witchcliffe area, stretching from south of Calgardup Brook to the Boranup Sand Patch. This sector contains over 135 speleological features of which 40 are major caves. The camp sites of the two main caving groups can be found in the Boranup area of this section. From these sites most of the caving activities are conducted. A good proportion of the stream caves are to be found in the northern part of this area. The best example of these is the Mammoth Chain, consisting of three large cave systems formed by the same stream but separated only by the collapse of limestone. Mammoth Cave is the inflow and is also a tourist cave. It is followed by Terry Cave, then Conference Cave. Another chain of caves, slightly to the north is believed to be where once the stream flowed and could possibly be an older stream system. Terry Cave is the only cave in this system which requires equipment, that is, a 15 m ladder and rope to descend the main entrance pitch. The other caves in this area are also well worth a visit and require no equipment but a guide is needed to locate them.

A little over 1 km to the north of Mammoth Cave is Calgardup Cave which used to be an old tourist cave. From here one can take the Bobs Hollow track to the beach (4 WD is advised) to see Bob's Hollow Cave, the only example so far known, of an efflux cave to be found in close proximity to the sea. Inland from Bob's Hollow is Connolly's Cave, this being the longest known stream cave in the Witchcliffe area. It is an excellent sporting cave consisting of over 2 km of passageway. There are vertical squeezes and also a number of good mud crawls to be found. It requires more than six hours to see this system properly. A guide is required to find this cave and a 12 m ladder is needed to descend the entrance pitch.

South of Mammoth Cave are Lake, Bride, Giant's and Golgotha Caves. Bride Cave is a large doline approximately 100 m across. This is a good cave for SRT fanatics and has a pitch on the deep side of over 50 m with a cave at the bottom. These caves are easily found from Caves Road. Golgotha Cave is 1 km south of Bride Cave on Caves Road. Also in this area are several other caves of interest.

Eight kms south of these caves is the Boranup Camp Site. Very little is known about the area between Golgotha and the campsite as only one large cave has been found, namely Green Cave, and several fissure caves found in the seventies near Blue Rock Road. They are believed to be formed by the acyion of water from a swamp opposite, undermining the limestone causing it to collapse forward in large blocks, forming deep fissures in the limestone.

From the Boranup campsite, many fine caves can be visited as some are within a short walking distance from the campsite. These are Dingo, Nannup, Mill, Strong's, Crystal, Arumvale Caves and Arumvale Pipe plus numerous smaller caves and karst features. Strong's is the finest stream cave in the area.

WI 38 - Mammoth Cave

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LAKE CAVE (Wi 30)
This article was published in:- The Western Caver, Volume 21 Numbers 2,3 & 4 Pages 34 & 35 in (1981/1982).

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Location

Lake Cave is located thirteen kilometres SSE of Margaret River and three kilometres East of the SW coast of W.A. on the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge. On ASF grouping of the cave features of the region, this cave is in the Witchcliffe Area and is specifically numbered as Wi 30. The locality is served by all weather roads from the North, South and East.

Form

From true ground level in the vicinity of the car park, a gentle slope leads to a spectacular doline entrance which contains it's own small forest of Karri (E. diversicolor) complete with typical understory. Leading under the Eastern edge of the doline floor a series of steeply sloping fissures lead down to the cavern floor. At this point a right angle turn is made and the total cavern extends 69m to the East. The cavern floor is covered in water of depths varying from 0.5m to 1.25m, and the flow of water from East to West has been calculated at 23,040 litres per hour (Webb 1979).

Geomorphology

Along with many other similar features in the coastal limestone (Eolian calcarenite. Lowry D 1965), the doline probably formed due to intense chemical weathering and physical corrasion of groundwater during a very wet era in the late Pleistocene. The evidence is that the entire ceiling of the original cavern literally 'fell in', as indicated by a clean exposed break around the major part of the surface perimeter of the doline. The progress of cavern development appears to have slowed somewhat since the collapse and the incursion of the stream under the N.E. wall of the doline can be traced by clearly defined sediment stratas, many of these lying some 20m above the present water table, some alongside the stream in the cave. Indications are that cavern development is still occurring although this is indefinite, as a guage to measure rotational collapse, (Henly 1962), was never followed up. Deposition of secondary calcites is quite spectacular and is continuing apace, particularly as stalagmites although owing to the majority of floor space being occupied by aggressive water, much of the floor decoration is restricted to stream banks.

Hydrology

The 'lake' of Lake Cave is actually the stream of water, which has formed the cavern system. It is the naturally regulated outflow of surplus winter precipitation from a surface area about 3km to the East of the cave system. Much of the region East of the limestone ridge is lightly capped with a pervious laterite, which allows much of the annual 125Omm of rainfall to soak through to the lower layers of granulites and granite gneiss (Horwitz and Gemuts. 1963), the natural relief of which is to the West. Thus the gently flowing streams feed under the limestone ridge and eventuate at the sea. Inflow into the Eastern end of Lake Cave is as a seepage around 180 degrees from the South to the North walls, rather than as a clearly defined stream. The reverse is true of the efflux point where at the Western end of the cavern, the pattern of flow can be quite clearly discerned as the water runs under loose rocks to leave the cave. Repeated attempts to define the resurgence of the water (dye trace ) at the coast can only be described as inconclusive. Despite greater than normal mineralisation, 48ppm CaC03: 36ppm MgCO3, the stream water is only mildly alkaline with a pH of 7.0 (Caffyn 1972). This relative acidity would account for the continued development which-is occurring within the cavern.

Historical

Although the doline entrance of the Lake Cave system was probably first reported by the early settlers as far back as 1896, it does not appear that any exploration was carried out for a number of years . It is known that one John Brockman had discovered the cavern during the 1890 Is and it was he who introduced the legendary Tim Connelly to the cave. Connelly was so taken by the beauty of the cavern that he named it "QUEEN OF THE EARTH" and proceeded, under the sponsorship of the State Parks and Gardens Board, to establish the walkways and conduct inspection tours for the public. It was probably the Government Surveyor, Marmaduke Terry, who introduced the less flowery name of Lake Cave. In the autumn of 1924, bushfire denuded the surrounding land and this was followed by torrential rains with heavy run-off into the doline. Extreme saturation of the doline floor caused rock and soil subsidence around the NW wall and this in turn blocked the stream passage almost directly beneath. Over the following three years, a veritable saga developed as Engineers and Workmen from the Mines Dept. and Public Works Dept. explored the drainage of the system and constructed tunnels and ducts to evacuate the water, banked up 1m deep in Lake Cave (Report on the Flooding of Lake Cave to State Hotels Dept.). Electric lighting was first employed during the late 1920's and the various replacement installations have led to the present system, which was commissioned in 1961.

Present

The popularity of the cave as a tourist venue is still maintained, with as annual throughput of 18 000 to 20 000 per year. Not with­ standing that 90% of the visitors attend during the summer and autumn period, the cave is open for inspection each day. Continual maintenance is required for the facilities such as tearooms, walkways, light system and car park. By far the more important task is the preservation of the surface environment above the cave, particular emphasis being placed on protective burning and removal of bush litter.

                                                                            John Yates

References

Blatchford, T. (1924) Report of the Dept. of Mines. (reprinted in The Caver's Chronicle 8(2):2. (1980)

Caffyn, P. (1972) Water Analysis - Easter and Lake Cave. The Western Caver 12(2):38.

Henley, P. (1962). (Could not be located by Ed. thought to he in The Western Caver).

Horwitz, R.C. & Gemuts, 1. (1963) in Explanatory notes to the Augusta 1:250 000 Geological Sheet. Geological Survey of Western Australia, Perth.

Lowry, D.C. (1967) Explanatory notes to the Augusta 1:250 000 Geological Sheet. Geological Survey of Western Australia, Perth.

Webb, R. (1979) Determining flow rates in slow moving streams. The Western Caver 19 (2):34-37.

Editors Note

Many thanks to John Yates for writing the above Lake Cave article. John has been the head guide at Lake and Mammoth Caves for many years and so is by far the most qualified person to write about Lake Cave.

For those who have never visited Lake Cave - put it on your list of caves to visit and see a remarkable little cave.

Rauleigh Webb

MARGARET RIVER

The area north of Witchcliffe is Margaret River, starting at Calgardup Brook and finishing at Ellensbrook. There is only a small karst area containing 20 known karst features of which six are major caves. Four of these, Milligan's, Walcliffe, Blackboy Hollow and Witchcliffe Caves are old tourist caves.

Milligan's Cave MR 19
Wallcliffe Cave MR 4
Beenup Cave MR 20
Blackboy Hollow
Witchcliffe Cave

Milligan's Cave MR 19 can be visited while you are making a trip to Meekadorabee Cave. Equipment is needed to descend into the cave as it has a 6 m entrance pitch. This cave was used as a tourist cave at the turn of the century. A descent into the cave passes through a fairly heavily decorated section on the left before reaching the main chamber. The floor of the main chamber consists of sand and rock with some bone material. Proceed onwards around a large rockpile to the terminal chamber which contains some good examples of calcified tree roots. A guide is needed to find this cave.

Wallcliffe Cave MR 4 Further south near the mouth of the Margaret River are two other caves of some importance, both completely different. One of these is Wallcliffe Cave MR 4, an ex-tourist cave found by Grace Bussel in 1870. This cave is situated at the back of Wallcliffe House on the edge of a paddock and is easily reached from the road. This cave has been vandalised badly and many old names can be seen written on the formation.

Beenup Cave MR 20 Situated in the limestone hill overlooking Prevally Park Caravan Site is Beenup Cave MR 20. This cave was discovered in 1975 by members of WASG and is locked. The system is a classic inclined fissure cave and is heavily decorated. The entrance was dug out and the cave itself is over 300 m long, no equipment is necessary. The terminal chamber ends in a rockpile and the floor is a rich black loam washed in from outside. The possibility of extending this cave is good. Approximately 100 m away is a large doline known as Rainbow Cave. This is worth a visit if only for photographic reasons. Foxhole Cave MR 9 is not far away and could be visited if a guide knows where it is. This cave has three chambers, one of which is well decorated and the terminating chamber contains scattered bones of many small animals.

Blackboy Hollow Cave Parking the car at the Boodjidup Brook, one would need to walk for approximately 2 km to reach each of these caves. Blackboy Hollow Cave is considered the finest cave in this area. The walk to the cave takes you past the magnificent blackboy's the cave was named after. (See Photo to the right) Equipment is needed to negotiate the 6m entrance shaft into a large chamber but you will have to unlock the gate first ! The key is held by the CALM office in Margaret River. A permit is required to enter the cave. This cave was an old show cave. The old pathways lead down into a magnificent lower level of immense proportions. Formation in this chamber is very good. Deeper into the floor of this chamber can be seen the old stream course.  

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Photo of Jim Campbell squatting next to one of the magnificent Blackboys that Blackboy Hollow Cave was named after.


Here are two photographs of some of the smaller, but interesting speleothems in Blackboy Hollow Cave.

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Suckerpod Formation - Photo of small 10-15cm long sucker pod formations. These straws are believed to have grown into the an old sand floor forming the sucker pod and then the floor has fallen away leaving the pod in mid air.

 

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 Moonmilk Covered Roof Pendant - Picture of a moonmilk covered roof Pendant. Large quantities of moonmilk cover the roof and some formations at one end of the cave.

Witchcliffe Cave is an interesting walk from the car. It has a magnificent setting above Boodjidup Brook where it opens into Devil's Pool. A cliff face at the head of the valley at the west end of the pool and on the north side of the stream contains the cave entrance. An overhang contains a 2 m drop down to water. Old wooden tables and a small stream, which requires some 7 m down a steep slope, can be seen. Stairs lead to the cave entrance above the overhang. Many old columns in two small chambers divide the cave and add to it's interest. This is an old tourist cave and a guide may be needed to locate it.