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Caves & Caverns; Finding the forgotten places with old maps?



Both My husband & I get out in the Santa Monica mountains, California and although it’s only when the weather is miserable in Indiana. Being a bike rider for years in England and America, he finally bought a hand built machine from a friend in Italy. Because he is a health nut, he rides his bike everywhere he can--living most of the summer months in Indiana he has a healthy outlook of riding his bike on country roads. Being a Professor of Earth Sciences he has been interested in mapping since he was a boy. Even his Grandfather before him collected maps, through the Great War and beyond and left him a magnificent collection. Today everything is high-tech and he complains humorously about the old masters, who spent hours with pen and paper drafting crude maps.

One of the great assets for this type of adventure can be the United States Geological Survey maps. Known Nationwide as Topo maps this can be very detailed survey maps that have been available since their 19th century inception, to the current series. This government "Topo" maps are so accurate, that the early additions would identify even the smallest of human habitat. The United Kingdom first issued the Ordinance Survey map in 1849 and like its American counterpart is extremely accurate.  A common dot was not a blemish on the paper, but would indicate a pioneers shack or cabin. I used these maps for years to find long-forgotten human activity, which would explain small mounds of broken glass of other debris. A good, healthy walk using these cartographic surveys can locate old Indian trails, which can no longer be distinguished on a modern map. Since he was a boy, my husband has been an avid climber and throughout that time has walked away with few broken bones. He has climbed in the blue mountains of Australia, including Mt. Snowden in Britain. He always seemed to be looking for some kind of climbing adventure wherever we go.

The outdoors can be your friend as well as your enemy, so we always take extra water which is just as important as a good map. Contemporary maps rarely show the old trails and hidden watering holes, used for centuries by the native Indians. Early surveys contained a great deal of information, including original landmarks, Indian camps and much more.

While wandering he has located small isolated lakes and streams, full of fish. Acknowledging that the United States has been completely surveyed, with older maps he has discovered forgotten mountain valleys full of wildlife. Wild Turkeys, deer, stag and other creatures that had likely hasn't seen a human being before. Some of these places are way-out of any habitable track, that even a four-wheel drive could ever find a way in. In California, he discovered in the mountains an old mining camp, hidden away from human eyes. Well off the beaten path and no safe access, because a previous earthquake had collapsed the road sometime in the early 1900's. The place was seething with wildlife, including bear, geese, quail, Bobcat--even wild hogs.

Many of these forgotten places are inaccessible by any avenue than using ascenders into these lost areas. Once there must have been a comfortable way in, but not anymore. I am sure the creatures that live in these enclosed areas have some way to get around, but most of the time my crazy spouse would have to drop down on a rope. Sometimes I have waited hours for him to return from these escapades, but his stubbornness always got in the way—to prove a point. He climbs down into these strange places, to prove his point that these odd places exist—and nobody—nobody hadn’t likely been there for decades! 

The commentary below about these hidden places gives ample evidence which illustrates that there are many more of these places across America and without doubt most parts of the world. Every time he goes out, I used to wonder if he would come home? But other than his need to explore these strange places, he returns home unscathed except for a few bruises. Lately he has teamed up with two other climbers, who follow his unusual ideologies and also are interested in these lost areas. Currently he has a very old 1886 map he gleaned his grandfathers collection of Inyo County, that which is likely very rare and meticulously detailed. It covers such places as Death Valley and the early surveys of this region.

The Southwest contains more of its share of old mining camps, ghost towns, forgotten mines, caves and caverns with many that have remained unnamed and forgotten.  Working with the surveying engineer on reconnaissance, Indian scouts would point out demographic information known only to the tribal elders. The Navajos Indian tribe was in harmony with the land and knew every inch of it. They knew where in the desolate regions, where springs of water would flow from the parched ground. They knew hidden places enclosed by canyons where rivers rose from subterranean depth to replenish small forgotten lakes. In the mountain ranges that looked barren to the military observer were areas of green. They were hidden behind rising towers of sheer rock that could only be reached through narrow splits in its surface. Winding, dangerous paths that climbed to roof and descended down, that could send man and horse to their deaths. These forgotten places still remain, but do not show up on a modern map and many of the ways in have been washed away, transformed by earthquake or landslide. My husband looks to the earliest topo maps to locate these obscure places and thrives on each trip. He has told me of deep caverns he has descended into, again, not to be found on the current survey maps. Thank heavens he never goes alone anymore, because from his description and the gear he takes with him, he is pushing his luck. He tells me they have found some deep caves in the Inyo mountain wilderness, which have yet to be discovered. My guess there are hundreds of small patches of green, waiting to be found again out there  with running water and animals running free. Whether or not the Indians entered the caves out there, perhaps we will never know, but they knew that they were there.

The place he had found was not recognized on a contemporary map, but the early survey labeled the hidden settlement as "Beveridge" It still remains in its solitude, but with the small lake the creatures are never disturbed. Careful though, take your shotgun or a good rifle with you, because the place has some pretty large diamond backs. Yes! Always have a GPS and a

Good communication satellite phone like Globalstar. Which is something he will never leave behind, nor will he leave at all if it’s not working correctly.

By following these almost completely eroded paths that was taken by the tribes you can be almost certain to find drinking water, places of shelter and hunting regions. In all respects it is a matter of their survival, so they knew of small secret places that contained all these elements. This was not just a refuge in the desert, the forests or hidden valleys, but high in the mountain ranges.

You can find these rare and unique secret corners of America, when you study the old maps. I have personally found three such areas, because the native Indians knew of these secluded places where they fished and hunted.  Modern maps remain almost infertile to this valuable information, whereas the old surveyors had a knack in producing wonderfully detailed material.

I have been known as "The Maps Lady" because about five years ago, along with my husband who is an old retired Professor we began our business. Although my husband had the knowledge and the means, we were both completely ignorant of the digital industry. Mostly by error and practical hands-on experience we introduced our Global known website. Today our historical map prints are recognized by many academic institutions, including the renowned Johns Hopkins University. People of all walks of life buy our sharp, quality maps. My husband maps have been handed down from his grandfather and many have never even been studied yet.

Today our main objective is to preserve and restore, this huge map collection for future generations. Being an he is an old retired University professor, it is instilled in him to operate on a higher plane then most commercial historic map vendors. We have attuned ourselves to offer a high quality product that is first cleaned to within a 90 percent of perfection. However, it would be completely offensive to achieve any degree of the original product, because then it looks as if it had been churned off the press today. The old hand-coloring style and some blemishes remain, so that a map from the War of Independence--looks as if it is two hundred years old, minus tears and human neglect. http://www.historicmapsrestored.com

All around us are these almost secret places, full of wild animals hiding away in these small sanctuaries.



New member
An awful lot of the small caves on the High Burren in Co. Clare were originally located using the 1903 edition of the OS 1:10560 maps. Strangely though, the large pothole recently reported near Ennis which is several metres across (see forthcoming UBSS Proceedings) is not shown on the maps.  :unsure:


Active member
OS mapping is now electronic. and the OS do a great ob of constantly updating their maps.
Does anyone know if everynow and then they take a snapshot or keep a version history, so that in 5 years time they can bring up the files of 2006? or are we jsut going to have to keep that 2005 edition paper map?


Cave_Troll said:
Does anyone know if [they] keep a version history

Don't know for sure but I would think it unlikely that they would lose the information content.
The amount of antiquities and other features on maps varies over time according fashion - sensitivity - preservation on more.

http://www.old-maps.co.uk is the one for me. Very useful.

The OS do a fantastic job of mapping the country, their maps are an invaluable part of any outdoors activity.
Whenever I go to a new place I always buy the relevant 1:50K or more recently the 1:25K as the best guide to the area.



Well-known member
Casca said:

He tells me they have found some deep caves in the Inyo mountain wilderness, which have yet to be discovered.


Do you have one of the Peak District

Mods: Why not start a section for classified ads

Sites like www.oldmaps.co.uk are great


Mark said:
Mods: Why not start a section for classified ads

The For Sale / Wanted forum at: http://ukcaving.com/board/index.php/board,23.0.html should do the job.


Well-known member
Im refering to the blatant advertising blurb above, they should be paying for stuff like that