While many of our tourist attractions were affected by last month’s Butte Fire, California Cavern found itself squarely in the middle of the firestorm. The fire broke out on September 9, and by the next day, as the north winds began pushing it aggressively into Calaveras County, cave managers decided to shut down tours and instead, starting collecting important items and files for the impending evacuation. Then began a waiting game of nearly a week, says Heather Ginn, the company’s VP of marketing.
The Return from Evacuation
When staff members were finally able to walk into the property the following week, they discovered that miraculously, only two small structures had been lost and the main visitor center had survived. This is due in part to the large area of open space around the building that gave firefighters plenty of room to defend the building. Some neighbors had even parked their vehicles in the cavern’s parking lot because it was the largest open space around. The two structures lost, however, were the well shed and water tank, which has left the center without water until they can be repaired. Burned electrical lines have also left the business running on generators until power can be restored. Much of the surrounding property was heavily burned and Ginn says they are starting to plan what to do with the landscape. She hopes some of the trees will come back, but much of it will need to be replanted and managed as new undergrowth takes hold.
The cave has reopened for walking and spelunking tours and they are transitioning to shortened winter hours. Recent rains have started to raise water levels in the lower parts of the cave – a seasonal occurrence which curtails the tours into the deeper parts of the cavern. Bottled water is available for purchase and porta-potties are on site until the water system is repaired. Current winter hours are Friday through Monday, 10:00am – 4:00pm.