Proposal to build a CaveSim system for Kartchner Caverns

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What is a cave simulator?

CaveSim cave simulators allow visitors to crawl through artificial cave passages to learn about wild caving and cave conservation.  As visitors crawl through the passage, they encounter artificial cave formations and cave life.  Sensors provide the user with feedback about their soft-caving skills.  If a visitor bumps into a stalactite, or gets too close to a cave painting, an electronic sensor behind the wall beeps, LEDs light up around the object, and a recorded voice teaches the user to be more careful next time.  When the visitor leaves the cave, he or she can review their score using a simple computer interface.

CaveSim LLC designs and builds cave simulators.  We have had nearly 10,000 people crawl through our mobile cave.

Artificial formations made by CaveSim:


Gypsum flowers with embedded electronic sensors              CaveSim replica of the Caverns of Sonora Butterfly

The artificial formations above are based on the following real formations:


Photos by Peter and Ann Bosted, with permission.

Who can use CaveSim?

CaveSim's mobile cave has proven extremely popular among the general public as well as among experienced cavers.  Our mobile cave simulator is used for national caving competitions.


A veteran finishes CaveSim during NSSCON 2012 in West Virginia.             Kids prepare to enter CaveSim at the 2011 Cool Science Festival in                                                                                                                              Colorado. Photo waiver on file.


A student in CaveSim during an at-risk youth program.           Cavers prepare to compete in a challenge at the 2013 National Speleological      Photo waiver on file.                                                                   Society convention in Pennsylvania.

Why Kartchner Caverns needs a cave simulator:

Kartchner Caverns visitors were very enthusiastic about our mobile cave simulator at CaveFest 2014, 2015, and 2017.  At those three CaveFest events, a total of about 1200 visitors crawled through, and we taught over 2500 people about cave conservation.  We overheard a number of visitors telling family members that CaveSim was the highlight of their visit to Kartchner.

We conducted an optional written survey during Cave Fest 2014.  56 people responded.  We learned that:

Based on our discussions with Kartchner staff, one challenge that Kartchner Caverns faces is the need to attract younger visitors and families.  A cave simulator would benefit the park by doing exactly that -- while cave simulators can be used by people of all ages, they are an excellent way to engage younger visitors.  Children find the electronic and computer aspects of CaveSim caves very appealing, and then discover that they also love the caving aspect. 

A high-school-aged caver from the Cochise County Cavers explores CaveSim at Cave Fest 2014 at Kartchner Caverns.

Proposals for building a cave simulator for Kartchner Caverns

CaveSim LLC would build an artificial cave which Kartchner Caverns would own and operate.  Two options are shown below, and both options would include:

Option 1: Discovery Center exhibit

CaveSim LLC would build a cave simulator in sections in Colorado and then install it in the Kartchner Caverns Discovery Center.  This new cave would require minimal supervision from staff.  The highly-automated nature of our cave simulators and the robust nature of the formations and passage allow for minimal oversight.

The new cave passage would replace the small existing fiberglass cave, and could have the following layout:

A rough sketch of a possible layout of a cave simulator at Kartchner Caverns.

The sketch above is purely conceptual. An actual installation at Kartchner would look more like the photos below:

The helictites shown above are extremely tough, but also easily swing out of the way when bumped into by the visitor. This protects both the visitor and the cave. Sensors above the ceiling detect the motion and talk to the visitor to give them a quick cave conservation lesson.

Option 2: Mobile cave simulator

CaveSim LLC would build a cave simulator into an enclosed trailer and deliver it to Kartchner Caverns.  This would allow Kartchner Caverns to provide outreach beyond the park boundaries, which could attract more visitors to the park.  Our experience with mobile caves shows that many schools and festivals pay for such programs.  One challenge of this option is that it would not be in the Discovery Center.  A garage or permanent awning could be added to the Discovery Center to allow park visitors to use the trailer in all weather.

Screenshot of CaveSim software from our online instructions. The grey images on the right are live feeds from night vision cameras. The image in the center shows the visitor which formations they hit.  Note that the cave shown is box-like because it folds flat for transport.  Cave passage built for Kartchner would be more realistic and rounded.

About CaveSim LLC:

CaveSim LLC is based in Manitou Springs, Colorado.  CaveSim owner Dave Jackson invented the cave simulator concept, and holds U.S. Patent numbers 8,574,085 and 9,399,178 with additional patents pending.  CaveSim LLC designs and manufactures all artificial formations, sensors and other electronics in Colorado, and sub-assemblies (such as circuit boards) are made in the US.  CaveSim LLC is the only company that makes cave simulators, and we have extensive experience in electronics, software, construction, wall texturing and more.  All of our staff are cavers, and we even have our own geologist!

No real cave formations are harmed or even touched in the making of CaveSim cave formations.

Our other customers:


A student at USF is one happy customer as he installs our                     CaveSim artificial formations awaiting installation at a customer site. formations in the cave passage that he built.


Depending on the options chosen, CaveSim simulators of this scope range in price from $100,000 to $200,000.  In general, the longer the passage and the more formations, the higher the cost.

The project cost can be spread over multiple years by adding more formations and sensors in subsequent years.

We are happy to work with you to keep the cost down.  You are welcome to use your own staff to perform some of the work (demolition, for example) to keep cost down.


CaveSim caves are quite safe.  Some of our safety features include:

Maintenance / durability:

CaveSim formations are extremely tough.  We have refined our design based on extensive field testing.  Our latest designs are virtually unbreakable.  In the event that a formation is damaged, it can be replaced quickly and easily with no tools.  Our testing indicates that it takes about 35 seconds to install a formation.  We will be happy to include a maintenance contract.



A 1/2" threaded steel rod holds formations in place,                  CaveSim sensors are tiny, ruggedized computers.                                                   while a large spring allows the formation to move

Next steps

We believe that our cave simulator would be the perfect addition for Kartchner Caverns to teach cave conservation and science.  If you would like to continue to explore this project, please contact Dave Jackson with any questions or concerns:      cell: 914 330 7824

Possible next steps that you can take include:

We will be happy to set up a phone meeting to discuss this project further.

Thank you for considering our cave simulators for Kartchner Caverns.