The 48th, Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival Sepetember 7-9, 2012

Post date: Jul 31, 2012 4:19:56 PM

Welcome: Welcome to the 48th annual Wisconsin Speleological Society (WSS) Hodag Hunt Festival. The Hodag Hunt Festival is a yearly weekend caving jubilee for Wisconsin and the surrounding states’ cavers. You do not have to be a WSS member or be affiliated with any other caving grotto to attend. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The WSS uses the Hodag weekend as a caving social gathering and uses the funds raised at the Hodag auction to fund 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 feature on-site overnight camping Friday and Saturday nights, Saturday & Sunday breakfast, Saturday evening cookout dinner, a special Saturday morning cave connection and publicity event between two previously unconnected caves, Saturday afternoon & Sunday morning caving, vertical rope climbing, mountain biking, and geological field trips, a Blue Grass Band for Saturday evening entertainment, star and planet gazing at night through high powered telescopes, a large campfire each night to socialize and unwind from the day’s activities, and much more. Please bring any musical instruments to join in on the nightly campfire gatherings. Fun family-oriented activities, educational outings, and new discoveries abound at the 2012 WSS Hodag Festival.

Location: The Hodag Hunt Festival is at Cherney Maribel Caves County Park, just off of I-43, halfway between Manitowoc and Green Bay. Take the Maribel exit off I-43 onto Hwy 147 east, drive less than a 1/4 mile on Hwy 147 and then turn north onto County Hwy R. The park is one mile north on County Hwy R on the right side of the road. Just follow the signs for the park once you exit I-43.

Why Maribel: Cherney Maribel Caves County Park has been of great interest to the WSS since about 1984 when the history of caving in the area was first brought to our attention: Caves in the area had been the featured attractions for a nearby health resort hotel, which was built in 1900. The health resort was named “Maribel Caves Hotel.” The name itself piques some interest, but by digging a little further in the history books, we can find references to caves in the area that were commercialized for the health resort.

The open question is: Where are they? One, we think, is the Coopers Cave and you will see that in the park. However, a much larger described commercial cave is believed to have been blasted shut or collapsed around 1930. Time has erased the memory of where the larger cave was actually located, so the hunt goes on for what could be one of the most significant cave finds in recent history. The WSS has been extensively excavating some of the caves in the park to find the connection to the lost cave. Resistivity testing in the park does indicate numerous unexplored passages and an underground anomaly that is over 120 feet across and 40 feet high that we have not yet been able to get into. You will get to see what significant caves we have uncovered so far. One of our largest excavated caves, Marbel New Hope Cave, is now close to 600 feet of walking & crawling passages and is highly decorated with multiple types of cave formations to be seen.Cost: See separate registration form for cost breakdowns. In general: Pre-Registration $5.00 per person includes guidebook; On-site Registration $6.00 per person includes guidebook; Pre-Registration for camping $2.00 per night; On-site Registration for camping $3.00 per night; Breakfast $5.00; Dinner $6.00. There are reduced rates for camping and meals for youth. Registration for children under 15 is free.

Camping: Field sites that have no hookups are available for everyone right in Cherney Maribel Caves County Park. Full hookup camping sites are available a mile down the road at Devil’s River Campground at $32 per night. See ( For reservations call 920-863-2812. Devil’s River Campground has showers.

Campfires: Please do not bring in your own firewood. Restrictions are in effect because of the Emerald Ash Borer. Firewood and a large campfire will be provided on-site nightly by the WSS for the Hodag Festival.

Showers: There are no shower facilities in the park. Clean towels and showers are provided at the Francis Creek I-43 exit truck stop 7 miles from the park for a $5 fee.

Hodag Festival Activities: Saturday 9:00-5:00 and Sunday 10:00-3:00. Signup sheets available at Registration Area after Saturday breakfast. Multiple activities are being offered from caving, vertical rope work, park mountain-biking on a 3-mile professionally groomed bike course, nightly star and planet telescope gazing, a geological field trip, and much more. There are six on-site caves to visit and other off-site cave trips being offered. Everyone needs to be aware of White Nose Syndrome decontamination protocol to go on any caving trips. Handouts on decontamination protocol will be provided at Registration. Clean clothes and decontaminated caving gear are a must for all cave trips. Decontamination sprays and baths for caving equipment will be provided by the WSS for everyone’s use. Caving equipment used out of State is banned from use, per Wisconsin DNR regulations. A special, historic, cave connection and publicity event will be Saturday morning. Names from registered Hodag attendees will be drawn to see who gets to be the first, second, third, etc., in order of drawn names, to be the historic first, second, third, etc. caver to enter one cave entrance and exit another. Newspaper and perhaps TV reporters will be invited to be on hand to capture your name and photo in print. Another special event this year is a Blue Grass Band coming in for Saturday night’s entertainment.

Non-Hodag Festival Activities: Cherney Maribel Caves County Park is only a 40-minute drive away from Green Bay, WI. Green Bay major attractions include: Green Bay Botanical Gardens, Oneida Bingo & Casino, New Zoo, Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, Bay Beach Amusement Park, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, Heritage Hill State Historical Park, and much more. See ( Cherney Maribel Caves County Park is only a 30-minute drive from Manitowoc/Two Rivers. Manitowoc/Two Rivers major attractions include: Lincoln Park Zoo, The Bernard Schwartz House, Wisconsin Maritime Museum, and much more. See ( You are also just a 2-hour drive to most attractions in Door County. See (

Friday Arrival/Setup: Feel free to arrive after 12:00 noon on Friday, September 7, to set up your campsite for the weekend and take in the great amenities in the park.

Friday Registration: Registration starts late afternoon, around 6:00. Signs will be posted in the park for the registration location.

Friday Dinner: Cavers are on their own for Friday dinner.

Saturday Breakfast: The WSS will provide an all-you-can-eat breakfast in the park from 7:00-8:00, for a nominal $5 fee.

Saturday Morning Special Caving Event: A connection will be made between previously unconnected Tartarus and Split Rock Caves in the park from 9:00-12:00.

Saturday Lunch: Hodag Festival attendees are on their own for lunch.

Saturday’s Hodag Festival Afternoon Events: Cave trips, mountain biking, geological field trips, and vertical rope work 1:00-5:00. Everyone should be back at the park by 5:00 to get ready for the WSS Dinner Cookout.

Saturday Dinner Cookout: The WSS will provide Saturday’s brat, hotdog, and hamburger all-you-can-eat cookout with all the fixin’s from 5:30-6:30, for a nominal $6 fee.

WSS Auction: The WSS auction fund raiser will start around 7:00, after the festival cookout.

Saturday Evening Entertainment: Blue Grass Entertainment will begin at 9:00.

Sunday Breakfast: The WSS may offer breakfast from 7:30- 8:30, depending on breakfast supplies and demand, otherwise cavers are on their own for Sunday breakfast.WSS Board/General Meeting: A combined hour-long WSS General and Board Meeting will be held at 9:00 Sunday morning.

Sunday Hodag Festival Events: There will be a duplication of Saturday’s afternoon events offered on Sunday. Sunday’s activities start at 10:00. Everyone should be back in the park by 3:00 to start cleanup and camping teardown. The 2012 WSS Hodag Festivities officially end at 5:00.