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TPWD News Release — Nov. 13, 2006

Scientists Mapping Texas Cave With Lasers

Laser Technology Will Create a 3-Dimensonal Map of Devil’s Sinkhole

AUSTIN, Texas — State-of-the-art mapping equipment will be used at Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area during the next three months to produce what is believed to be the most detailed map and pictures ever produced on an entire cave.

The remapping project at Devil’s Sinkhole near Rocksprings, Texas, is being done by the Texas Cave Management Association, in cooperation with the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Devil’s Sinkhole is the third deepest cave in Texas, the largest single-chambered cavern in the state and home to more than 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats.

Scientists began mapping the Devil’s Sinkhole using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) mapping techniques this past weekend, Nov. 11–12. Mapping also will take place Dec. 2–3 and January 6–7.

The three-dimensional map produced by the LiDAR process will be used as an educational, as well as a management, tool and will produce a map with centimeter accuracy. Unlike most maps, this LiDAR map will be linked to digital photographs creating an unprecedented three-dimensional virtual view of the cave.

“Essentially the end result will give the most detailed 3D map of the interior of the Devil's Sinkhole ever, overlaid with color photographs to give anyone viewing the end data a realistic view of the sinkhole,” said Randy Rosales, superintendent of Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area. “The survey will provide us with a very effective educational tool, as well as a tool for helping study the geology of the cave and its inhabitants.”

Rosales said the LiDAR image will present help the public understand the size and significance of the Devil’s Sinkhole without having to enter the cave, which is possible only through rappelling. The map will also provide TPWD personnel with the ability to measure areas of the bat roosts and calculate the bat population; determine the volume of the cave and the level of the water table; and to perform detailed geologic analyses.

Devil’s Sinkhole was formed from the collapse of an immense natural chamber located within the Edwards limestone in Edwards County. The collapse formed a large vertical shaft 145 feet deep and approximately 40 by 60 feet in diameter at the surface. The bottom of the shaft intersects the top of a large rock debris cone.

The cone extends to a total depth of 350 feet beneath the surface. From the surface, only the top of the debris pile is clearly visible and the large chamber is hidden from view by overhanging rock ledges.

For more information about this project, please contact Geary Schindel with the Texas Cave Management Association at (210) 326-1576 or Mike Knezek or Randy Rosales with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (830) 563-2342 or (830) 563-5807.