Project Area

Fort Stanton - Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (NCA)

Following the discovery of Snowy River in 2001, the BLM and our researchers worked to create a special designation for this unique resource. In 2005 a special congressional trip visited Snowy River and reviewed material for the site proposal. In 2009 the area around Ft. Stanton Cave was made into a designated National Conservation Area (NCA) with more than 25,000 acres in order to protect this new resource. The new NCA is managed by the Bureau of Land Management out of the Roswell Field Office The FSCSP is affiliated with the Conservation Lands Foundation, and is an official Project of the National Speleological Society.


History of Exploration

Ft. Stanton Cave, NM, is located just northeast of the historic Fort Stanton near Capitan, NM. Signatures show that the soldiers were exploring the front part of the cave back in the mid-19th century. We have also found evidence that American Indians (Jornada Mogollon and Apache) may have explored the cave using cane torches before the soldiers. Modern-day cavers dug into a unique passage they named Snowy River and so far have explored it over 5 miles. Snowy River is a large, mostly level ancient stream passage that has a pure white calcite floor that runs the length of the passage. Due to the delicate nature of the floor channel coating that varies from fractions of an inch to perhaps four inches in thickness, explorers take special care to keep the formation clean and to minimize damage. In 2007 the cavers discovered that Snowy River occasionally has clear water flowing through the passage, its maximum depth defined by the edge of the pure white calcite formation on the mud floor and limestone walls.

Conservation Goals and Objectives

The centerpiece of the Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (FS-SRC NCA) is Fort Stanton Cave and its associated karst system. Our main activity is documenting and protecting this cave and karst system. The information that we gather assists the Bureau of Land Management to better understand the cave and karst resources, manage them, and protect the area. A specific issue that we are trying to understand is the hydrological relationship of the cave to the ground water and surface water resources in the NCA. This relationship is poorly understood at present. We want to make sure that ground and surface water withdrawals in areas near the NCA do not affect the water conditions inside of the cave. Biologists have found the Snowy River passage of Fort Stanton Cave to be a microbiological laboratory of profound significance. A major facet of our mission is to protect and preserve this area. We are just beginning to understand the historic usage of the cave by the local populace starting in the 1850s and before that, the Native Americans. Preserving this evidence is one of our goals. In support of our strong interest of conservation of the resource the FSCSP is working closely with the Conservation Lands Foundation. In case you missed it, the Sunday April 17th issue of Parade Magazine featured a good article "Saving Our National Treasures" that featured some of the unique lands under the BLM National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS).

Additional media: Download Video Here

We currently offer a short video presentation by Jim Cox on the history and exploration of Snowy River

(Please wait for 240 MB mp4 file to load) Check back later - we plan to add additional photographs in 2016.


John Lyles KRSN July 2014 Interview on recent explorations before Snowy River flooded.

Computer Simulations

Priority 7 Landing Panorama

These photos were part of an update to Caver Quest, an avatar computer simulation of travel through Fort Stanton Cave passages.


Maps & GIS

Example of Cave Cartography


Devil's Backbone Area of Ft. Stanton Cave


Map and new graphics for Fort Stanton Museum

A 2019 project assisting the BLM with graphics for the updated Ft. Stanton Museum cave room is complete. With new discoveries and surveys being updated every year, the new surveyed length of the cave is just over 40 miles! In addition to 100% new graphics, the museum now features a new high resolution video showing a survey team in action. Wrapped around a corner at one end of the room is a 7 x 10 foot photo of the Snowy River Passage that provides a visitor a 3-D experience of actually being in the passage itself. The museum is located on the Fort Stanton Quadrangle.


WNS, BLM & USFS Document Links      
AD5K Decon

Fort Stanton Cave Video White-nose Syndrome detected in NM

2024 Cave Proposals
Proposals to: (

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Rev. 5-9-2024
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