2011 PROTECT Field Trip – Puerto Rico

A group of Protect researchers spent Feb 7th visiting various karst sites in Puerto Rico. The trip was attended by faculty and students from UPRM (Tom Miller, Ingrid Padilla, engineering graduate students) and WVU (Dorothy Vesper and Amanda Laskoskie). Dr. Tom Miller, a karst geologist at UPRM, hosted the trip with Padilla.

Stop 1: Rio Camuy.

The day began with a stop at Rio Camuy Cave Park. Although the cave park is closed on Mondays, the park’s Carlos Morales provided a private tour. The Clara Cave entrance is located in the base of a large sinkhole (18°20’85.4” N, 66°49’16.0” W) . The first room entered had some seepage water but no major streams. It is well decorated with flowstone, especially at the entrances.

After the first main passage, the cave opened into a sinkhole. At the base of the sinkhole (karst window) was the active path of the Rio Camuy river (photo). River turbidity suggests significant sediment transport.
After visiting the cave, we visited the Tres Pueblos Sinkhole (18°20’30.5” N, 66°49’26.3” W). At the base of the sinkhole we could see a brief emergence of the Rio Camuy.

Stop 2: San Pedro Spring.

This spring is located outside of the PROTECT study area but has been studied by the USGS in the past. Its source has been altered by road and bridge construction.

Stop 3 Ojo de Guillo (spring).

Ojo de Guillo emerges from underneath the footers of a bridge. This spring is part of the sampling program.

Stop 4: Zanjas Frias (spring).

This spring is located in a large wetland area along the north coast, near the Barceloneta landfill. The wetland occurs because the fresh karst water is forced upward when it encounters the more dense seawater. There is one larger pond for the spring but it is not the only (or perhaps the largest) source. The entire area is a discharge zone; several larger point discharges were found.

Stop 5: Monte Encantado and Barbudo

For our last stop we visited two “wild” caves, Monte Encantado and Barbudo. Before going underground, we visited a pumping well pad where two water supply wells were present. These wells are installed in the cave underneath, which we saw shortly.

The walk to the first cave went down into a sinkhole to find the entrance. This is a wet cave with an active stream flowing through it. Initially, the cave passage was 6-10 feet high with 1-3 feet of water. The ceiling then came down and we had only ~1 foot of air space above the water. We swam downstream until the cave opened up slightly again and we had a more comfortable 2-3 feet of airspace! The two well casings were in this room. Fortunately Tom Miller was willing to risk his camera so we got a great group shot.

The second cave we visited was in a nearby sinkhole. This cave is home to a large colony of fruit bats. Fortunately it’s a much bigger cave with high ceilings. There are two large rooms. The back room was home to most of the bats. As we arrived, which was around dusk, the bats began to stir and fly outward. Not only were they flying around by the hundreds (thousands?) they made a lot of noise.

Overall it was an excellent day and a good opportunity to visit a number of different types of karst features.

Photos from the field trip can be seen below; click on the slideshow to download larger versions.

Thanks to Ingrid Padilla, Dorothy Vesper and Amanda Lakoskie for taking these photos, and thanks to Ingrid and Dorothy for their help assembling this information.