The U.S. Forest Service is asking the public to help protect the fragile environment when visiting the Ape Cave Interpretative Site at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
A popular hiking destination on the south side of the volcano, the 13,042-foot-long Ape Cave is the longest continuous lava tube in the continental United States and third-longest lava tube in North America.
Because of the site’s popularity, it is often crowded on weekends and during the middle of the day, monument officials said.
“We are asking everyone who loves Ape Cave to help us protect it so we can continue to provide a high-quality experience for our visitors,” Tedd Huffman, monument manager, said in a news release. “We are also looking for ideas and are working with the community to help protect the cave.”
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In asking visitors to do some preplanning, monument managers said that will help make visits more enjoyable and lessen impacts to the cave.
Here are ideas passed along by monument staff:
▪ Plan to visit the cave on a weekday (before 11 a.m. or after 3 p.m.) when the cave is less crowded and parking is more available.
▪ Use the restroom before entering the cave, bring two bright light sources, dress warmly, bring water (no food in the cave).
▪ Take only pictures and leave only footprints.
▪ Clean your shoes before entering the cave to reduce the risk of bringing in white-nose fungus that affects bats.
▪ Leave your dog and other pets at home. They’re not allowed in the cave.
Huffman also said the monument will increase its staffing presence at the cave following the recent discovery of white-nose syndrome for the first time west of the Rocky Mountains. The disease is fatal to bats roosting in caves.
Huffman said increased signage and uniformed presence at Ape Cave and Ice Cave, located on the Mount Adams Ranger District, will inform visitors about the disease, how to help prevent its spread, and the importance of caves to the survival of threatened bat species.
If you go
Passes: Visitors are reminded that a Northwest Forest Pass or other federal recreation pass is required for vehicles parked at Ape Cave and Trail of Two Forests. Day passes are available for $5 in stores in nearby communities, at a self-service fee tube at Ape Cave and online at tinyurl.com/lels796.
Ape Cave Interpretive Site: The Ape Cave headquarters is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily during the summer. More information is available at fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=40393.
White-Nose Syndrome: For more information, go to whitenosesyndrome.org.