Announcing the 52nd Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival Sepetember 9-11, 2016

We are happy to announce that the 52nd annual Wisconsin Speleological
Society (WSS) Hodag Hunt Festival is scheduled for September 9-11, 2016, and we are set for yet another fun and adventurous caving weekend celebration. The Hodag Hunt Festival is a yearly weekend caving jubilee for Wisconsin and the surrounding states’ cavers. It is a great time to get together for exploring caves during the day, later reconnecting and relaxing with fellow cavers, and above all, having lots of social fun and camaraderie. Everyone is welcome to attend; you do not have to be a WSS member or be affiliated with any other caving grotto. Beginning cavers are all welcome.
This year’s event will be at Spook Cave & Campground which is uniquely known for its underground boat tours (http://spookcave.com/), located near McGregor, Iowa. The cave was first discovered in 1953 and opened for business in 1955. Spook Cave is an easy 9-mile drive from Prairie du Chien, in southwestern Wisconsin. Cross the Mississippi River from Prairie Du Chien into Iowa on Hwy 18 and drive due west for approximately 8 miles, watch for Spook Cave advertising signs, turn right and head due north one mile on Spook Cave Road. Turn left at the Bloody Run Creek bridge to enter the Spook Cave campground. Spook Cave’s address is 13299 Spook Cave Road, McGregor, Iowa, 52157.
Why Spook Cave & Campground: Spook Cave was chosen for this year’s Hodag
celebration for its uniqueness of being out of state. There have only been three other times that a Hodag Festival event has been out of state. One outing was in Northern Michigan in 2000. Another outing was a combined get together with the MSS at the Cornfeed in 2002 in Minnesota. Finally, the other out of state outing was at Spook Cave in 1987. Spook Cave is one of only a small handful of show caves in the USA that are toured by boat and it is the closest one to Wisconsin that offers boat tours. You don’t have to walk through the cave, but just lean back and leisurely glide through a lighted cave on a 40-minute boat ride to see stalactites and numerous other spectacular natural formations that offer numerous photo opportunities. Spook Cave Campground also features its own waterfall. Spook Cave was also chosen as the Hodag Festival site because of its close proximity to some of the most popular tourist and photo unique areas in eastern Iowa. With so much to see and do near Spook Cave, your weekend will be full of adventurist trips and leave you with monumental memories for a lifetime to come.
Hodag Fun: The WSS uses the Hodag Hunt Festival weekend as a caving social gathering and uses the funds raised at the Hodag auction to support its various caving activities throughout the year. Besides great commercial caving opportunities and scenic local attractions on both Saturday and Sunday, the WSS offers a great breakfast on both mornings, a picnic supper on Saturday night, and an auction after our evening meal. Please do bring items for the auction and some extra money for the great buys and interesting finds you will see. Nighttime activities include campfires and some spontaneous singing and playing of music if one is inclined to do so.
Camping: The WSS has reserved the group campsite at the Spook Cave Campground for camping. It does have water and a porta-pottie, but no
electricity. The site includes a small lake for fishing and a roped-off swimming area with a small sandy beach. On-site camping costs are $4 per night/person. Large families will only be charged a maximum of $20 per night/family in the group campsite. Group site camping needs to be paid directly to the WSS. All Hodag participants need to check in with the campground office to get vehicle passes. Individual non-group camping sites/day through the Spook Cave Campground with no hookups are available at $25, electricity and water hookups at $31, and those with an additional sewage hookup at $36. Costs are based on three people per site. A $2.50 charge/person is an additional site expense. Spook Cave Campground also has full service cabins to rent starting at $380 per weekend. Get your non-group site reservations locked in early to assure availability to the Spook Cave Campground at (http://spookcave.com/). All campsites including the group camp site have access to free showers, coin laundry, and flush toilet facilities. Golf cart rentals are also available for getting around the campground.
Registration: All participants of the Hodag Hunt Festival must register for the event. The Hodag on-site registration will begin Friday evening about 7:00 and continue through Saturday morning. On-site registration for ages 16 and above is $11, including the 2016 Hodag Hunt Festival Guidebook. There is no registration fee for kids age 15 and under.
Meal/Auction: Our evening meal and auction will be at the Driftless Area Wetlands Center near Marquette, Iowa 

(http://www.driftlessareawetlandcentre.com/). Marquette is on the Iowa side of the Hwy 18 Mississippi River bridge that links Iowa and Wisconsin. The Center is located on Hwy 18, one mile west of the Mississippi bridge and 8 miles from Spook Cave. The WSS has reserved the entire Center for our Hodag use from 4:00 PM till 10:00 PM. The Center includes a large parking area, with plenty of outside and inside seating for meals, a full kitchen, and indoor bathroom facilities. Our meal will be a family style all you can eat picnic-style meal which includes grilled brats, hotdogs, burgers, and all the picnic favorites of coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, chips, as well as an assortment of beverages. The meal will be served from 6:00 - 7:30 PM. To keep costs down for Hodag participants, the meal costs are very reasonable at $6/per adult. Kids’ meals from age 2 to 12 are $3. Kids under 2 eat for free. The Hodag auction will immediately follow the meal at 7:30 inside the Driftless Area Wetlands Center.
Breakfast: Both Saturday and Sunday mornings will feature an all you can eat breakfast put on by the WSS right at the group site reserved campsite. The breakfast is $5 per person/meal, and will include pancakes, breakfast sausages, fruit, milk, coffee, and juices. You just never know what multiple unique flavors of pancakes will be offered this year by our renowned resident chef, Allan Schema.
Hodag Caving Trips: This year the WSS is only sponsoring show cave trips, as the Hodag Festival will be outside Wisconsin. Wild caving trips may be offered or attended by individuals, but you will be on your own for non-commercial trips. For any wild caving trips, everyone needs to be aware of the White Nose Syndrome decontamination protocol in order to participate.
The WSS will be sponsoring trips to the nearby show caves of Niagara Cave (see photo at left) near Harmony, Minnesota http://www.niagaracave.com/index.html), Crystal Lake Cave located five miles south of Dubuque, Iowa (http://www.crystallakecave.com/), and Mystery Cave in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park near Preston, Minnesota (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mystery_cave/index.html). A 9:15 welcome and weekend activity briefing on Saturday is required for all Hodag Celebration attendees. The WSS has also reserved a guided, discounted caving trip of Spook Cave, which will be offered at 9:30 AM on Saturday morning. The cost per person for ages 13 and up is $10, children ages 4 to 13 is $7, and children under 4 are free.
Alternative Hodag Activities: Spook Cave is only a 7-minute drive from McGregor, Iowa (see photo at right) and Pikes Peak State Park. McGregor was chosen one of the top ten most beautiful towns in Iowa (http://www.mcgreg-marq.org/). It features streets lined with 19th-century buildings, antique and specialty shops, and great restaurants. Being on the Mississippi River, it also features numerous hiking, biking, boating, and fishing opportunities, as well as Mississippi River boat tours, shopping, a winery, brewery, a river casino boat, and much more. Pikes Peak State Park offers one of the finest overlook views of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers (http://www.iowadnr.gov/Places-to-Go/State-Parks-Rec-Areas/Iowas-State-Parks/ParkDetails/ParkID/610141). It also features biking and hiking trails, a beautiful waterfall, effigy mounds, and picnic facilities with lots of nearby parking. Iowa State parks are also free to the general public for all visitors. Just three miles north of Marquette, Iowa on Hwy 76 and only a 12-minute ride from Spook Cave, is another unique area attraction, Effigy Mounds National Monument (https://www.nps.gov/efmo/planyourvisit/index.htm). Here the Natural Park Service preserves more than 200 prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans. Numerous mounds are shaped like animals, including bears and birds. Other nearby attractions include Wyalusing State Park, Villa Louis Historic Site, the city of Prairie du Chien, the city of Marquette, Iowa, and much, much more.
51st Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival: We are hopeful you will be able to join us for yet another fun Hodag Hunt Festival weekend. Early registration for the event will save you money on both registration and camping fees. Look for our registration form on the WSS website at (http://www.wisconsincaves.org/) or in our WSS newsletters. Early registrations must be received no later than Wednesday, September 7th. Festival attendees are reminded to be on the lookout for the elusive Hodag. The captor of the Hodag will be given a finder’s prize at the auction. Remember the WSS caving motto: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.” Have a safe caving adventure, wherever the caving trail may lead you!

                For more info contact Kasey Fiske at  kasey.fiske@wisc.edu