Team of scientists finds hints of fabled cavern on Grand Mesa

A cave could be tucked beneath the basalt cap of Grand Mesa, or so it would seem from photographs taken with a camera lowed ingeniously from the top.

That’s the finding of the Western Investigations Team, which set out a year ago to learn what it could of the legend of an ancient cave high on the mesa that was used by the Utes and perhaps, earlier Grand Valley dwellers.

“I would say there is a possibility” that such a cave exists, said Dave Bailey, director of the Western Investigations Team and curator of history at the Museum of the West. The team is a joint effort by the museum and Mesa State College.

Bailey and team members went to the top of the mesa in late summer with a device that looked like a long cane fishing rod. The rod held a line that could dangle a small high-definition videocamera about 80 feet below.

The idea was to lower the camera, steadied by a second line, to a level beneath the cap where it appeared a cave or crevice might be inspected.

Bailey and other members of the investigations team last year isolated what appeared to be a promising location on the mesa, where amid dark recesses, there seemed to be caves.

Frames from the videocamera suggest that there might be more to it than mere appearance, Bailey said.

At least one frame seems to show an inset from the front of the mesa with the hint of an inner recess behind.

That might mean there’s a cavern of some size behind the rock, Bailey said.

Tantalizingly, a fissure in the rock seems to offer an uneven but potentially reliable path through the cap to a ledge that sits several feet above the cave.

Even from the ledge, though, the cave can’t be seen, nor is there any clear path by which a person could find it, Bailey said.

Still, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that such a path once existed, Bailey said.

Then again, there might be less than meets the eye.

But it does seem as though the investigations team’s mission to look into stories and legends of the West to determine whether they had any basis in fact has been met.

The rod-and-camera contraption, dubbed “Argos,” for “shiny or bright idea,” showed that there are caves or fissures in the side of the mesa, Bailey said.

Whether there are any caverns large enough to host meetings of large numbers of Utes or members of other tribes is still an open question.

“There’s obviously more to investigate,” Bailey said.

Argos, in the meantime, could be used for other purposes, including providing a bird’s-eye view of paleontological or other finds, Bailey said.


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