Having gone to high school in Boise, I had heard about the Kuna Caves but for some reason never made the 25 mile trek from Boise to check it out. The Kuna Caves are about 5 miles south of Kuna (out in the middle of nowhere) on public property managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Various local legends have the cave being discovered in the late 1800s and ever since the area has been a destination place for locals, whether for family picnics or high school parties. If I remember right, the local high school team is even called the Kuna Kavemen.
While we are in Boise visiting family for Thanksgiving we always are looking for interesting things to do (and new places to geocache). My brother-in-law had been out there in the past but none of the rest of us had any idea what to expect, so my brother, brother-in-law, and I took 8 of our kids out to “see” the cave. There are no posted directions to the area since the BLM appears to want to keep this area from becoming too much of an attraction for outsiders. My GPS routed us to the obvious, Kuna Cave Road, but then pointed us to go down an unmaintained dirt road (map point A) for a quarter mile. This brought us to a chained gate (map point B), but the chain was not locked, so we went through and rechained the gate. We arrived just as another group was just packing up, taking off their headlamps, overalls, and other spelunking gear. (Our little dollar store flashlights looked pretty wimpy.)
Although called the Kuna Caves, there is only a single cave system, actually a lava tube approximately 1,000 feet long. Local rumors say there used to be more caves but were filled by the Corps of Engineers. At first glance the opening appears to be just an inconspicuous hole in the ground (which can be seen in Google maps satellite view (map point C). But peering into the 35-foot drop to the cave floor is pretty intimidating. A caged steel ladder built years ago by the Corps of Engineers provides access into the dark chamber and a more recent safety rail has been installed around the perimeter of the opening.
The boys went down the ladder first. Being that it was the middle of November, the first thing you notice when entering the cave is that it is much warmer since the interior temperature of the cave hovers around 56 degrees Fahrenheit year round and there is no wind. Once on the cave floor your eyes quickly acclimate to the darkness but if you are going to explore at all you will need a flashlight. I wish we had brought better flashlights. Nobody knocked their heads on the roof but not for lack of trying. The northern section of the tube is the longest, narrowing then opening into new ‘rooms’ and then narrowing again until it is so narrow you cannot go any further. To the south the cave narrows much quicker. Travel is limited either by how dirty you are willing to get, your body size, or your claustrophobia. There was a lot of graffiti on the walls but I was surprised that there was not more trash and signs of vandalism.
We did spend quite a bit of time down in the cave. Most of the boys and my brother went deeper into the cave than I wanted to go and we spent quite a bit of time looking for the Kuna Cave Geocache (you knew there was another reason I took the kids here). Since a GPS does not work underground the coordinates only took us to the cave entrance, then said to go 150 paces north. Luckily there was a hint that the cache was near certain graffiti, but with our wimpy flashlights it took quite a bit of time to locate the right markings.
Kirsten, my 11 year old was the only one who did not go down into the cave. Her claustrophobia would not allow her, but she promised next year she would :) More photos can be found on flickr.com.