We are cavers. We are the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto (NRMG), a recognized chapter of the National Speleological Society (NSS).
We are Montana’s only caving club!
Chartered in 2000, our purpose is to promote the discovery, exploration, scientific study, and conservation of caves and karst. Our club consists of over 100 members who actively survey, inventory, map, photograph, monitor, and recreate in caves in all parts of the state of Montana, Idaho, the Northern Rockies, Canada, and beyond! Although our core group is centralized in Montana, our membership is diverse and currently spreads across Washington, Idaho. Wyoming, Utah, Texas, and California! The NRMG is a unique club – we are very spread out, yet somehow we’ve kept our club active and together for over 15 years!
Cavers in Big Sky Country are a special bunch – it is in our blood – why else would we descend below one of the most beautiful places in North America?
Because our caves are amazing.
Our vast, uncharted wilderness areas are prime areas for discovery. In 2014, grotto members exploring the Bob Marshall Wilderness discovered Tears of the Turtle Cave, surveyed to 1629 feet deep, becoming the deepest limestone cave in the United States, displacing decades-long record holder, New Mexico’s Lechuguilla, at a relatively “shallow” 1604 feet below the surface. America’s third deepest limestone cave is also in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Virgil the Turtle’s Greathouse at 1586 feet. Montana’s longest cave, Bighorn Caverns is over 20 miles and still going, and Montana’s first state park is also the state’s only commercial (show) cave, Lewis and Clark Caverns, the site of our annual meeting.
In 15 short years our members have mapped hundreds of new caves in the Rockies and around the world. Our membership base is very diverse with ages ranging from 10-80 years. The grotto is a 100% all-volunteer, non-profit organization.
It is our mission to provide a forum where people can learn about and participate in caving.
Here’s some of the activities of our organization:
Annual Grotto Meeting at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
Our Annual Grotto Meeting (AGM) is held at Montana’s first state park and only show cave, Lewis and Clark Caverns, administered by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks near Whithall, Montana. The AGM is our annual convention, a weekend full of fun – presentations, campfires, caving and so forth. The event has become fairly standardized: Friday is a cave clean-up, Saturday we have our annual business meeting and multiple presentations from members, and on Sunday we have more presentations and an afternoon caving trip. The state park has a campground and three cabins which we reserve for the weekend. This is a well-attended event and a great opportunity to meet cavers from all over the state. Our meetings are announced in the Public Events Forum on this site, Facebook, and through email.
These are informal events that any member can sponsor – as a member, you are encouraged to sponsor a Pub Night! As the name suggests, Pub Nights are often sponsored at a local Montana brewery or tavern, but may occur anywhere, including member’s homes. Pub Nights may or may not have a presentation and have frequently occurred in Whitefish, Missoula, Bozeman, and Billings. These gatherings are encouraged as a local venue for cavers to get together. We are grateful to our disperse northern caving neighbors in the Alberta Speleological Society (A.S.S.) for sharing this concept as a venue for fellowship, camaraderie, and inspiration. There is perhaps no better way for members to find out who’s caving in their area and make some plans! Volunteers are needed in Great Falls, Helena, Idaho, and elsewhere. Contact our Secretary Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how you can host your own Pub Night!
Caving trip plans are emailed, posted in our Caving Trips and Training forum and are often decided at Pub Nights or announced spontaneously. Most caving trips in Montana occur in the short summer season (late June until September) due to heavy mountain snowpack often present in caving areas. There are plenty of exceptions, however! For folks outside the northwest, keep in mind summer in the mountains starts in July!
Weekend caving opportunities are numerous. Becoming a member and staying active in the grotto is the best method to get involved with caving in the Northern Rockies.
Many of our members are involved in long-term, wilderness expedition caving, mostly in the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness areas, as well as caving in the Grand Canyon, Croatia, Turkey, and Peru. If you are interested in expedition caving, you are in the right place!
Due to the short caving season in alpine karst regions and the logistics required to access these areas, opportunities for discovery are prevalent. Some expeditions guarantee “finding booty.” Experience in alpine caving, outdoor emergency care, self-rescue, winter survival, mountaineering, and rock climbing are desirable pre-requisites.
Most of Montana’s great caves require rope work. Becoming a “vertical” caver is an amazing experience as it greatly increases your options in recreational caving, especially in Montana, where most caves worth visiting require ropework.
On-rope training is provided infrequently at various locations and times. Recently, training was sponsored in Bozeman at a local rock gym, and in the past at Mulkey Gulch near Drummond. Flathead cavers also recently attended a training event in Canada, a few hours’ north of Whitefish. Training opportunities are posted in our Caving Trips and Training forum.
As stewards of the underground environment, Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto members adhere to a strong “moral” code of caving ethics:
The NSS and NRMG believe:
- Caves have unique scientific, recreational, and scenic values;
- These values are endangered by both carelessness and intentional vandalism.
- These values, once gone, cannot be recovered.
- The responsibility for protecting caves must be formed by those who study and enjoy them.
All contents of a cave — formations, life, and loose deposits — are significant for their enjoyment and interpretation. Therefore, caving parties should leave a cave as they find it. They should provide means for the removal of waste; limit marking to a few, small, and removable signs as are needed for surveys; and, especially, exercise extreme care not to accidentally break or soil formations, disturb life forms or unnecessarily increase the number of disfiguring paths through an area.
Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos, kill nothing but time.
We invite you to become a member of the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto.
Basic membership is only $12 annually per household. Membership is renewed at every annual grotto meeting, so if there’s less than 7 months until the AGM, we’ll extend your membership for free by a year! Privileges of membership include access to exclusive email lists, membership forums, access to caving trip announcements, trip reports, training, our annual meeting, digital library, the latest newsletter, and more! You can pay with any credit card via our secure PayPal interface.
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Please note: You will be billed one-time for $12 USD. We do not retain any credit card information on this site. If your dues are current and you pay early, you will extend your membership one year from the end of your current term (you will not lose money!).
Mailing address: (alternatively, you can send a $12 check or money order to our Treasurer)
711 S 3rd St
Hamilton, MT 59840 (address current as of January 2015)
(You will have to wait until the check clears to gain online access by this method)
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