Cliff Cave, Site of Drownings, to Reopen Exploration of Its Narrow Sections Will Be Restricted

Article excerpt

Cliff Cave in south St. Louis County, where six people were killed in a flash flood last summer, will reopen Sept. 1 with limited exploration of its narrow back reaches, the county announced Friday.

Two adult counselors and four young residents of the St. Joseph's Home for Boys drowned after being trapped in the cave last July 23 when a driving rainstorm swelled the cave's underground flow. The county immediately closed the cave.

The cave is in Cliff Cave County Park, near the Mississippi River in far South County.

Ben Knox, associate director of the county Parks Department, said the county would reopen the first 400 feet of the cave to general viewing. But he said anyone who wants to crawl into the back reaches will have to apply to the department for a permit.

The rules are not overly stiff. Knox said an adult, meaning someone at least 17 years old, must accompany each spelunking party. Each party must have at least three lights. The county will provide maps.

Knox said the county had studied the cave with hydrologists and cave experts.

"We've thought about this carefully," Knox said. "This is really a pretty simple cave. What happened last year was weather-related, and that's what we'll be watching carefully."

The parents of one of last summer's victims said the new rules were too little - and too late. …