Witchcliffe - The Caves

Strong's Cave    
Devil's Lair and Nannup Cave    
Dingo Cave    
Arumvale Pipe and Arumvale Cave    
Bride Cave    
Golgotha Cave

Strong's Cave is an excellent one to visit. It has a small circular doline with a vertical shaft at the bottom leading down to a rubble pile and then down to the stream. Downstream from the entrance, the passage is low and of the 80 m of passage, only 50 m can be comfortably traversed. From the entrance to the upstream section, the Western Australian Museum's palaeontological dig must be walked around and a hole negotiated to get to the lower chamber. Several other rockpiles and crawls are passed through, including the Snowflake Passage, before reaching the main stream passage. Moving upstream past the rapids, which consist of gneiss bedding covered with tree roots, one comes to the Devil's Horns. This is a helictite formed on the bottom of a straw. The next point of interest from here is the calcified bones in the wall on the left-hand side if proceeding upstream. Around the bend from here is the Judge's Wig. This is a large impressive mass of crystalline formation of pure white calcite which stands out well against a dark background. On from here is one large rockpile and then the terminal chamber in which the world's longest straw can be seen. Surrounding it are some equally long tree roots, making it difficult to distinguish the straw. A soil band can be seen in the roof throughout the cave. This is thought to be were one dune has settled and soil has been allowed to form, and later more sand has blown over forming another dune.

Devil's Lair and Nannup Cave Not far from Strong's Cave is Devil's Lair, situated in the Nannup doline. The Department of Palaeontology of the W.A. Museum, under the direction of Dr Duncan Merrilees, has performed excavations in this cave over a period of years. The results of this dig have been extremely interesting, indicating the presence of aborigines in the south-west for a greater time than previously supposed. Nannup Cave itself is worth a visit, being an old abandoned stream cave with some good formation. Also some historic graffiti can be seen on the formation. Dingo and Mill Caves are not far away. These two caves were formed by the same stream that carved out Strong's Cave and are separated only by collapses. Mill Cave is upstream of Strong's Cave and the entrance pitch can be free climbed. A shallow lake once graced the main chamber but has disappeared as a result of the receding water table in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste area. The large tree root in the middle of this chamber has been badly vandalised in recent times. Two hours is ample to study the cave.

Dingo Cave is downstream from Strong's Cave. The entrance solution pipe can be free climbed. The Christmas Tree and some beautiful crystalline filled solution pipes in the ceiling nearby, are two examples of the speleothems to be found in this cave. (See if you can spot the bat partly entombed in flowstone.)

Arumvale Pipe and Arumvale Cave are about 3 km south of the campsite. The pipe is 23 m deep and is the best abseil into a cave in this area. This cave is a small stream cave, 160 m in length, terminating in a large chamber filled with rock. Voice contact has been established here with Arumvale Cave. Two hours is quite adequate to visit this cave. Arumvale Cave, (a locked cave) is located further up the hill. The entrance is very unstable and several ladders are required to reach the bottom which is at a depth of 57 m from the surface. A camera should be taken as the formation is excellent. The total length of the cave is about 500 m, the first 200 m being dry and well decorated. The last 300 m is wet and muddy, and one must crawl to the end of the cave in the stream. About four hours is required to see this cave. Extreme caution must be exercised at the entrance pitch.

While stopping at the campsite, it is a must to drive through the Karri forest to the Boranup look-out. Also, a trip to the beach is worthwhile though a four wheel drive is advisable on the rocky road. The Boranup Sand Patch is a recorded aboriginal site. For those who do not want to go caving, a day here is well spent and it is near an excellent beach.

Bride Cave This cave is one of the few spectacular vertical entrance caves of the South-West of Western Australia. The circular collapse doline is 35m across falling 30m on the longer side of the sloping floor or 17m on the short side.

The cave has suffered from its original development for tourism, which was never effected because of a bush fire that burnt the entrance gate and the top of the initial wooden platform.

The current use of the cave is mainly abseiling. The cave is one of the self guiding high conservation caves within the permit system operated by CALM in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. It is heavily used, mainly by commercial operators and school groups. Maximum group size is 20 and permits are issued for AM or PM bookings.

Considerable damage has occurred at the surface take-off point and the shorter ladder climb from the cave. Besides this damage considerable track damage has occurred at the abseil landing point as well as on unstable slopes in the doline and cave. One "slope" which was severely damaged has now been identified as an owl deposit containing millions of bones. This area has been barricaded using track markers and the deposit brushed to remove foot prints. A full appraisal of the deposit will be made in the near future.

Restoration work has been undertaken by CALM and volunteers. The large flowstone formations on the walls of the main chamber (see the photo's from the map)have been washed to remove the dirt carried onto the flowstone by cavers thoughtless climbing. The water pressure was not enough to remove this material - scrubbing was required. After several hours of scrubbing and washing the flowstones were returned to their original beauty. Barricades of fishing line holding red track markers now clearly indicate that this is a no-go area. A sign explains what the track markers are for.

A future program will undertake the restoration of the sand chamber at the northern end of the cave. The staircases and platforms in this area have been buried in a meter and a half of sand in places. These platforms will be excavated and sensitive areas barricaded to prevent further degradation of the soil cones within this area of the cave. A great deal of back filling of sand excavated on one wall of the sand chamber and beneath a large flowstone will also be undertaken. This and track markers put in place to prevent further degradation of the flowstone.

Golgotha Cave This cave is a locked Self Guided Class II cave which has received heavy visitation for many years. It was developed as a tourist cave and its impressive wooden gate is a result of that development. Many of the old staircases rotted and were removed from the cave. A Bicentennial project called Cavcare performed considerable restoration to the cave formations as well as its stairways. As a result the cave can now take relatively large groups of 15 under the permit system. If groups remain on the marked paths damage to the cave should be minimised.

During 1994 the largest shawl in the South-West of Western Australia was destroyed (4m long x 1m wide) by persons unknown in Golgotha Cave. This tragedy would have been avoided if cavers had remained on the marked trails as the shawl was some 10m from the nearest trail. It is hoped that education will halt this destruction.

Here are three photographs of some of the smaller, but interesting speleothems in Golgotha Cave.


Golgotha Nodules - photo of small lightly yellow coloured calcite nodules.  


Golgotha Bleeding Flowstone - picture of a "bleeding" flowstone - this formation looks like it has been shot and blood is flowing from the wound. The origin of the dark red coloured flow is unknown but occurs in several caves in the South-West.


Golgotha Flowstone - picture of Kevin Beckham next to a small flowstone in the main chamber.