Announcing the 53rd Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival

Post date: Jul 27, 2017 2:04:30 PM

Announcing the 53rd Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival

August 25-27, 2017

We are happy to announce that the 53rd annual Wisconsin Speleological Society (WSS) Hodag Hunt Festival is at Crystal Cave this year ( near Spring Valley, Wisconsin. Crystal Cave is a great location as it features both extensive wild caving opportunities and a renowned breath taking commercial cave to visit.

The Hodag Hunt Festival is a yearly weekend caving jubilee for cavers from Wisconsin and the surrounding states. It is a great time to get together for exploring lots of caves during the day, later reconnecting and relaxing with fellow cavers, and above all having lots of social fun and camaraderie. You do not have to be a WSS member or be affiliated with any other caving grotto to attend. Everyone is welcome! We do encourage new attendees to join the WSS if they are interested.

Why Crystal Cave: Crystal Cave is the largest explored cave system in Wisconsin, with over a mile of mapped cave passages. It would take well over a day just to see and admire all the passages and rooms in it. On the Crystal Cave property itself, there are also multiple additional caves that can be explored in easy walking distance from each other. Seeing all of these other individual caves thoroughly will take yet another day of exploring. One particularly interesting cave on the property is South Portal Cave. At South Portal, there has been an active excavation project in progress for years. During the last Hodag outing at Crystal Cave in 2010, South Portal had an impressive survey length of 554 feet. The cave has almost doubled in size since then. The cave today is getting close to measuring 1000 feet of passage. Once it achieves 1000 feet of passage, it will move into the unique top 10 list for Wisconsin cave lengths. Interestingly there are only 10 caves in Wisconsin that are over 1000 feet in length. Crystal Cave is at the top of that list with over a mile of passages. A recent breakthrough this summer in June added an additional 80 feet of voided passage and revealed multiple impressive new cave formations that have never been seen before. The closeness of yet another major breakthrough during the Hodag is a very real possibility. A special breakthrough excavation dig is being offered all day Thursday and Friday, August 24th and 25th, in South Portal Cave. You could become a historical participant of a major cave discovery in Wisconsin just by being at the Crystal Cave for Hodag Hunt Festival.

Part of Crystal Cave is also a well known, highly decorated, commercial cave. The commercial tour offers an hour-long, underground trip down lighted stairways and even pathways by experienced and knowledgeable tour guides. Every registered Hodag participant, including kids, will be given free Crystal Cave commercial cave tickets. Each cave ticket is a $16 value per adult. The cave tour offers spectacular formations of stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone that cover the ceiling and ledges of the cave. You will see something new and breathtaking at just about every corner of the tour.

Other advantages for having the Hodag at Crystal Cave this year are onsite camping, caving, an evening meal, and a spectacular WSS auction that offers great deals for all. Everything is conveniently centrally located for all caving activities for the entire weekend without having to leave the Crystal Cave property.

Requirements to attend: We have two very important requirements for everyone who is going into the noncommercial caves during the Hodag Hunt: 1) Everyone needs to have the proper caving equipment: a protective hard helmet of some sort and no less than hiking boots are a must for all caving trips; hands-free caving lights and protective clothing are highly recommended; knee pads and gloves will be needed for most trips (bring them if you have them, you will not regret having them); and 2) All your caving equipment and clothing must be clean to protect against the spread of the devastating White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS is at Crystal Cave. It is responsibility of each caver to know and comply with current WI-DNR rules, regulations, and USFWS approved decontamination protocols.

Hodag Fun: The WSS uses the Hodag Hunt weekend as a caving social gathering and uses the funds raised at the Hodag auction to support its various caving activities throughout the year. Please do bring items for the auction and some extra money for the great buys and interesting finds you will see at the auction. The weekend will be full of great caving trips, and the best part, you do not have to go any farther than a short walking distance from where you will be camped for the Hodag to see lots of caves. A full picnic style cookout dinner will be provided by the WSS on Saturday night. The evening meal is being offered at a minimal fee. There will be social gathering every night by a large pit fire to unwind from the day’s activities. Please bring any musical instruments to join in on the nightly fun activities. Featured for this year at the Hodag is a special arranged trip to Sandland Mine. Sandland Mine is the brainchild of Eric Sutterlin and is only 20 miles driving distance from Crystal Cave. Sandland Mine is a 3-D maze of tunnels that is being systematically excavated out according to a master surveyed plan and is designed to purposely disorient cavers. It is sort of like a corn maze but underground. Cost: Pre-Registration is $10 per person. On-site registration is $11 per person. There is no registration charge for children under 15. Camping on site per family is $5 for the entire weekend. The evening meal is $6 for adults and older children, $3 for children 3 to 13 in age, and children under 3 eat for free. Camping: Field sites for tents and campers that have no hookups are available right on the Crystal Cave property. Camping spaces may become limited depending on the Hodag turnout, so camping space availability will be on a first come first serve basis only. No space can be reserved, so it is best to arrive early if you can. We will do everything in our power that is reasonable to fit everyone in. The overflow area to camp if Crystal is full will be the Highland Ridge Campground in the Eau Galle Recreation Area ( It will also be the camper’s choice to go there if you want electrical and full hookups. They do take reservations so it is wise to get a site locked in as soon as you can. The campground is about 7 miles from Crystal Cave. For reservations or information about the alternate camping site, call 715-778-5562.

Camp Firewood: Due to the emerald ash borer, no firewood may be brought in for camping. The good news is Crystal Cave will be providing free all the firewood we need for our outing.

Showers: There have been shower arrangements made less than a mile from the Crystal Cave entrance. The Spring Valley Golf Course will offer showers for a $5 per person and provide clean towels for anyone interested in getting cleaned up after a long day of caving activities.

Caving Trips: Saturday caving trips will be offered from 10AM to 4PM and Sunday from 10 AM to 3 PM. Sign-up sheets will be available at the Registration Friday night and Saturday morning. A Hodag event briefing at 9:30 Saturday morning is required of everyone. For any wild caving trips, everyone needs to be aware of White Nose Syndrome decontamination protocol to go on any caving trips. Clean clothes and decontaminated caving gear are a must for all cave trips. Decontamination sprays and baths will be provided by the WSS for everyone’s use, if it is needed. Multiple caving trips will be offered. Eight on-site caves are available for caving in addition to Crystal Cave itself. The other on-site caves are Overlook Cave, Cancon Cave, Fox Den Cave, Play Caves, Tree Fork Cave, Fuzzy Critter Cave, Gargolies Cave, and South Portal Cave. An off-property trip to Sandland Mine is being offered. Other off-property cave trips may also become available closer to the actual Hodag event dates.

Vertical Caving: Bring your vertical caving gear, including ropes. A 35-foot lift will be provided at the campsite for vertical caving practice.

Non-caving Activities: Crystal Cave is only a 60-minute drive from the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. There is a multitude of things to see and do there. You have multiple Museums, Historic Fort Snelling, Minnesota Zoo, Mall of America, and many more interesting sites. See Closer to Crystal Cave you have Eau Galle Recreation area, Spring Valley Gulf Course, Cady Cheese Factory and Gift Shoppe, Maple Leaf Orchard, Vino in the Valley and many more attractions found at ( If you like waterfalls, this gem of a waterfall is 32 miles from Spring Valley in Willow River State Park Willow River State Park - Wisconsin DNR.

Picnic Shelter: Registration and the main hub for informational activities at Crystal Cave for the Hodag will be at the new picnic shelter. The shelter is a covered building with lots of picnic tables and a cement floor; a great place to hang out in case of inclement weather. It is located close to the outdoor bathrooms next to the Crystal Cave gift shop. Check-in and registration will take place here. Please check in when you first arrive and before you set up at any camping site. It will also be the site for the Hodag evening meal and WSS auction. Crystal Cave Directions: From Minneapolis / St. Paul, MN take Interstate 94 (I94) east into Wisconsin. Follow I94 19 miles past Hudson WI to Exit 19 (Ellsworth Exit). Turn south (right) onto Highway 63. Go seven miles south. Signs will direct you to turn left (east) on Hwy 29 towards Spring Valley and the cave. From Eau Claire, WI take Interstate 94 (I94) west to Exit 28 (Spring Valley). Turn south (left) onto Highway 128. Go five miles south to Highway 29. Turn right on Highway 29, following the signs to Spring Valley. Continue west on Highway 29 past Spring Valley for one more mile. Crystal Cave is on the left side of the highway.

Hodag Event Schedule

Wednesday Night (August 23rd): Early check-in for those cavers participating in the all-day Thursday and Friday excavation dig in South Portal Cave. Camping is free for Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Thursday and Friday South Portal Excavations: Digging will begin at around 8:00 in the morning. Cavers will be on their own for lunch on Thursday and Friday. Just about everyone will just bring a light lunch to eat at the cave. Excavation time will conclude at dinner time.

Thursday and Friday Dinner: Cavers are on their own for Thursday and Friday night dinners. There are multiple options for meals. The bill of fare includes fast food, home cooking, pizza, chicken, ice cream treats, baked goods, and fine dining. Baldwin ,WI just a little northwest of Spring Valley, about a 15 minute drive, offers nine restaurants offering a variety of good food and is located just off of the I-94 freeway. Spring Valley is just a 5-minute drive from Crystal Cave and has other great food options, including a Subway less than a mile from the hwy entrance to Crystal Cave.

Friday Registration: Registration starts at around 7:00 in the evening and will be run through Saturday morning for late arrivals.

Saturday Breakfast: Cavers will be on their own for breakfast. Denny’s Restaurant offers a huge breakfast menu selection and is only 15-minute drive from Crystal Cave at the intersection of I-94 and Hwy 128. The Subway in Spring valley also now offers a breakfast menu.

Saturday Caving: Caving activities start at 9:30 AM with the Hodag activity briefing. Everyone MUST attend the briefing. Cave trips will leave at 10:00. Everyone should be back at the campsite to get cleaned up by 5:00 to get ready for the cookout dinner.

Saturday Lunch: Cavers are on their own for lunch on Saturday. If on an extensive caving trip, lightly packed high energy foods are suggested.

Saturday Dinner Cookout: The Saturday Cookout Dinner will be served in the “Twinky”. Meal time is from 5:00 - 6:00. The cookout meal will be grilled hamburgers, brats, and hotdogs with all the fixings. Accompaniments to the grilled foods will be potato salad, coleslaw, chips, and dessert.

WSS Auction: The WSS Auction fund raiser will start around 6:30. Door prizes will also be given out during the auction.

Sunday Breakfast: Cavers will be on their own for breakfast. Denny’s Restaurant offers a huge breakfast menu selection and is only 15-minute drive from Crystal Cave at the intersection of I-94 and Hwy 128. The Subway in Spring valley also now offers a breakfast menu.

Sunday Caving: There will be limited trips offered on Sunday. Caving activities start at 10:00 and should wrap up by 3:00 so people have plenty of time to tear down their camp sites and have daylight travel time for home.

2017 WSS Hodag Hunt Registration Form

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