By Jeremy Patton
Farmers Cave Outflow is located in Pulaski County, Kentucky.
Note: I will not reveal the locations of caves because they are frequent targets of vandalism. Furthermore, heavy human traffic destroys their fragile ecosystems.
Delania and I visited the river entrance of Farmers Cave on her birthday, October 6, 2016. She was elated to spend time being dirty.
Before leaving the sun behind, Delania spotted a “cute little bat” hanging in a split in the rocks, just inside the entrance. She always spots them first. She must be Bat Woman. So far, we have only encountered one or two bats at each of the various caves that we have visited. If we find a bat population, we will stay out of that cave until spring. Disturbing hibernating bats could cause them to burn their limited fat supply and die.
We worried that the low entrance would become impassible. Thankfully, it opened into a larger chamber that emitted cold subterranean air. We made our way down into a room containing a pool. It was only about 20 feet wide, thanks to an ongoing drought.
We carried our kayaks into the cave and down the steep, muddy bank to the water’s edge. This was no easy task. We brought Delania’s kayak first and set it down on the rocks. Delania asked “are you sure it won’t slide into the water?” “It’ll be fine,” I answered. We turned to go get the other boat, then heard a big splash; Delania’s kayak floated away. Thankfully we had a second kayak to retrieve the first.
We crossed the pool without incident, but when Delania stepped onto “dry land,” she sank up to her thigh in silt. We clawed our way out of the water and into a large breakdown area. To our left rose a narrow chute, maybe 30 feet high. I climbed it, but found no passages at the top. It was silted, so water no doubt flowed through the rocks.
The breakdown area split into two passages, soon merging into a large cavern; I looked over my shoulder and realized that the split was a natural arch. I call it Farmers Cave Outflow Arch #1.
The cavern ended at a steep hill that rose 60-80 feet to the ceiling, composed of rubble and silt. It was not a vertical face, but was very slick and took probably 20 minutes to climb. At the top, I found an alcove, speleothems and the only graffiti of the cave: initials spray-painted on a wall. There were no passages there, but judging the topography, water must have sprang from various crevices.
I suspected that the hill might be the end of the cave, but Delania found a side tunnel below. It was a short, muddy crawl that led to a round room with a dome ceiling, perhaps 60 feet high. It held a small pool at the bottom that was rimmed by a silty, slanted bank. Regrettably, I could not capture a single image of the most impressive feature of the cave. Our feeble lights were swallowed by the black expanse.
I struggled to see, but not due to lack of light; heat and humidity continually fogged up my glasses. We had felt cold air when we entered the cave, so now we wondered if we were missing something.
Sure enough, we spied an upward scramble near the water’s edge. As we approached, it felt like divine Hades had turned the air conditioner back on. We ascended to a crawl-space where it felt like we were sticking our faces directly into the vent. Failing to find another passage, we hypothesized that the cave indeed continued, but part of the passage had collapsed. I am sure that cave critters have no trouble navigating through the break-down.
Although there was not a lot of cave to explore in terms of length, it boasted many impressive features. The mud was an ever-present challenge, but it did not ruin the fun.
If you locate this cave, make damn sure you do not get caught inside it during flooding.